Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Even when kicking up high heels to dance in drag, John Travolta's no stiff in Hairspray

With a leg up from Ellen Show DJs Tony Okungbowa and Jon Abrahams, Ellen DeGeneres has become well-known for bustin' moves onstage. Nonetheless, the multi-talented comic/actress/talk show host is downright stiff compared to John Travolta.

What has shined footlights on Ellen's dancing is the popularity of her daytime show, on which she dances with her DJs, the audience and sometimes guests. Those segments are fun to watch and inspire (at least in this fan) the urge to shake a leg, but Ellen's dancing is nowhere near professional. In contrast, pivotal roles have showcased Travolta's ability to shake it up, baby, twist and shout - as well as to act - and served as stepping stones to superstardom.

Such roles included: Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Staying Alive (1983), Danny Zuko in Grease (1978, which Travolta told Regis and Kelly was the biggest musical of all time), and Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction (whose script made Vincent the brother of Vic Vega in Reservoir Dogs and the cousin of real-life singer Suzanne Vega). Fortunately, taking a pass on the role of attorney Billy Flynn in Chicago (which was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won six), was no stumbling block.

Travolta's latest gig turns back to his roots, but with a twist. He dons drag to play Edna Turnblad in Adam Shankman's remake of John Waters' movie musical, Hairspray (1988). The movie opens July 20. The cast of stars and newcomers includes: TRACY TURNBLAD - Nikki Blonsky, CORNY COLLINS - James Marsden, VELMA VON TUSSLE - Michelle Pfeiffer, PENNY PINGLETON - Amanda Bynes, LINK LARKIN - Zac Efron, MOTORMOUTH MAYBELLE - Queen Latifah, WILBUR TURNBLAD - Christopher Walken, AMBER VON TUSSLE - Brittany Snow, SEAWEED - Elijah Kelley, and PRUDY PINGLETON - Allison Janney.

From the trailers I've seen, kicking up high heels in Hairspray has not cramped Travolta's style. In fact, if Travolta-as-Turnblad challenged DeGeneres-as-herself on Dancing With the Stars, the high school dropout/former Sweathog would be, hands down, Most Likely to Succeed.

The ads below and the following links access reviews and DVDs featuring John Travolta, Ellen DeGeneres and Hairspray.