Anyone who attended Hairspray
at the Fox last March saw a wildly entertaining mother-daughter act in Carly Jibson as pudgy teenager Tracy Turnblad and Bruce Vilanch in drag as Tracy's endearing blob of a mother, Edna. No sooner did Hairspray
depart St. Louis for Denver than the show's savvy producers plucked Jibson out of the national tour and moved her to Broadway. Two weeks from now Vilanch reunites with Jibson on the Great White Way, which means that New York audiences will be paying $100 a pop to see the same two performers St. Louis theatergoers saw earlier, fresher and cheaper. Local theatergoers tend to take for granted the shows that pass through town. But the brutal fact is that at least 65 theaters around America are vying for these touring shows. Fox Theatricals, under the hawk-like eye of Mike Isaacson, consistently succeeds in booking the best of the batch. (Two seasons ago, the Fox hosted the brand-new, hot-out-of-the-box touring production of the mega-hit The Producers
, whose company has since been plundered time and again to fill the depleting ranks on Broadway.) It should go without saying that if a Broadway season is lean, the options for the road will trickle down. But given the ever-shrinking parameters, Fox Theatricals is doing a remarkable job.