There's a grave pathology afflicting young girls in our culture, and it's reaching epidemic proportions. This phenomenon, known as Disney Heroine Voice, occurs when tweens with dreams of starring in Rent on Broadway insist on warbling with the manic exuberance of Little Mermaid Ariel upon discovering she has - what's that word? - oh yeah, feet!
Such is the fate of poor Nikki Blonsky, whom I'm sure does a terrific job of filling Ricki Lake's shoes in Hairspray. Onstage, her shrill, brassy bellow would be par for the course, but attacking Motown-style tunes alongside real singers like Queen Latifah in an album context, she falters.
The Queen's cuts here stand out - her gospel-lite I Know Where I've Been leaves goosebumps, while sassy Big, Blonde And Beautiful is the streetwise mama at her finger-snappin' best. Elijah Kelley, who plays Seaweed, also acquits himself well, and has some of the wittiest lines. And, shockingly, Michelle Pfeiffer's speak-sung Miss Baltimore Crabs is delightful.
The CD's go-go-girl group homage is enjoyable, though do skip over the aural torture that is John Travolta trying to sing. You know it's bad when you can make Christopher Walken sound like Sinatra.