Lipscomb Theatre's Hairspray, Nov. 3-6, is great fun for the entire family

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November brings bouffant hairdos, bubble curls and Motown to the Collins Alumni Auditorium as the Lipscomb University Theatre presents “Hairspray,” the Tony Award-winning musical that traces the story of Tracy Turnblad, a lovable plus-size heroine with a passion for dancing who runs up against the “establishment” in 1960s Baltimore.
Whitney Vaughn as Tracy Turnblad
Kristi Mason as Penny
Tyler Ashley as Link Larkin
Sydni Hayes as Amber
As a light-hearted musical based on an edgy film comedy, “Hairspray,” showing Nov. 3-6, could potentially be considered fun but simple pleasantry, said Mike Fernandez, chair of the Lipscomb theatre department. But the story of Tracy’s attempts to integrate a Baltimore TV dance show in the 1960s actually presents a poignant lesson of acceptance for the whole family, Fernandez said.
“Hairspray” tells the story of a family that many would see as outcasts, said “Hairspray” director Justin Boccitto, a long-time performer, director and producer in New York City and the co-founder of The Group Theatre Too. But the plus-size Turnblad family is also heavy on love and acceptance, and they end up helping Baltimore move into a new age by integrating the “Corny Collins Show.”
“The 1960s was a real turn of the tide in the nation. Great things were happening in the country, but we were still dealing with civil rights,” Boccitto said. “Deep down, what John Waters was trying to point out was the power of human connection. You can find human connection everywhere, no matter what body type we are, what race we are or what religion we are.”
In that same spirit, Lipscomb’s production of “Hairspray” was sparked by a partnership between Fernandez and Tenielle Buchanan, Lipscomb’s assistant dean of students for intercultural engagement. In an effort to provide more creative outlets on campus for minority students, the theatre department produced “Ragtime” in 2010 and “Hairspray” this fall.
“I think ‘Hairspray’ is a nice stylistic counterpoint to ‘Ragtime,’” Fernandez said. “Both are about how we relate to each other, but with ‘Hairspray,’ it’s more fun and you leave the theater feeling lighter. This is a musical we feel anyone could bring the whole family to.”
In Lipscomb’s version, Tracy will be played by student Whitney Vaughn and her mother Edna will be played by Lipscomb theater faculty member Jake Harbour.
Traditionally, the character of Edna is played by a man, a theatre convention that highlights the outcast status of the Turnblad family and reinforces Waters’ message of inner beauty, Boccitto said. “It turns out that Edna is really the most moral character in the whole story,” notes the director.
“When you get to know the Turnblad family, you realize they are the best people in the world, and you wish your family could be like them,” Boccitto said. “The story shows how we don’t take the time to understand each other. And that idea was really the driving force behind the civil rights movement.”
The 43-person cast includes Jessica Moore as Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a Motown record store where Tracy and her friend Penny make a new group of friends; Sydni Hayes as Amber, the dancing queen of “The Corny Collins Show” until Tracy comes along; and Tyler Ashley as Link Larkin, another dancer who takes a shine to Tracy despite her size.
“Hairspray,” which debuted on Broadway in 2002, is based on the original John Waters’ film released in 1988. The score includes fan favorites such as “Good Morning Baltimore,” “Welcome to the ‘60s” and “Big, Blonde and Beautiful.”
“I feel like we have put our own creative stamp on this production,” said Boccitto. “Those people who have seen ‘Hairspray’ before, haven’t seen this ‘Hairspray.’”
“Hairspray” will be performed Nov. 3, 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. and on Nov. 6 at 2:30 p.m. in the Collins Alumni Auditorium. Tickets cost $15 for individuals, $10 for faculty, and $5 for students. Tickets are available through Lipscomb’s Allen Arena box office at 966-7075 or click here.
Read Nashville Broadway World features on Hairspray: