PORTLAND – PCA Great Performances will bring the national tour of “Hairspray,” a splashy musical that became an immediate Broadway smash, to Merrill Auditorium Feb. 23, 24 and 25.

Based on the 1988 John Waters film that starred Divine and a then-unknown Ricki Lake, the play premiered at the Neil Simon Theatre in the summer of 2002. It went on to win eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

“Hairspray” is set in 1962 Baltimore, a time and place where change is in the air. Tracy Turnblad, a local girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has a passion to dance. She wins a spot on the local TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show,” and is transformed overnight from ignored outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. But can this trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the program’s reigning princess, win over heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show – without messing her ‘do?

Clive Barnes of the New York Post describes the show as “a great big fat gorgeous hit.”

“So many numbers bring down the house, it’s a wonder the theater is still standing,” says Jeremy Gerard of New York Magazine.

“Hairspray” is based on the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters, who served as a creative consultant on the musical comedy. The Broadway hit features an original score by Academy Award-nominated Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

This production of “Hairspray” is based on Jack O’Brien’s original direction and Jerry Mitchell’s original choreography, recreated by director Matt Lenz and choreographer Danny James Austin.

Scenic design is by David Rockwell; costume design, William Ivey Long; wig and hair design, Paul Huntley; musical supervisor, Lon Hoyt.

“Hairspray” is family-friendly and is comparable to a PG rating at the movies.

Shows at Merrill will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23; at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24; and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25.

Tickets, priced between $45 and $60, are available by calling PortTix at (207) 842-0800, or by visiting pcaGreatPerformances.org.