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'Hairspray' Breaks Social Barriers

Schools and Libraries

February 12, 2014


 

After surmounting a series of obstacles posed by an unusually brutal winter, the Long Beach High School theater department managed to pull all the loose ends together just in time to produce a knockout musical performance of "Hairspray." This romantic comedy with a deep soul tells the story of a plump teenager named Tracy Turnblad, played by Annie Gloeggler, who dreams of landing a role on a hit TV dance show in 1962 Baltimore, only to throw it all away in the name of social justice when she stages a fight to integrate the show.

 

Donning an enormous super-teased wig, Annie artfully captures the big hair obsession and big-hearted enthusiasm that, against all odds, makes Tracy an instant star on the Corny Collins Show. When she and her best friend Penny Pingleton (Maegan Miciotta) learn of open auditions for the show, Tracy decides to audition, against the protests of her equally large mother Edna, who fears there is not place on TV for people like them. Donning a fat suit, curlers and a housecoat, Max Tunney created his own memorable performance of the role immortalized on Broadway by Harvey Fierstein. Encouraged by her enthusiastically supportive father Wilbur (Jonathan Kapilian) to follow her dreams, Tracy risks the ridicule and scorn of her fellow students, landing a spot on the show. Host Corny Collins (Tom Marsden) takes an instant liking to Tracy against the protest of show producer Velma Von Tussle (Alexandra Brodsky). Determined to have her daughter Amber (Katie Murphy) remain the reigning queen of the Corny Collins Show, Velma does everything she can to thwart Tracy's rise to stardom. Velma's urgency to remove Tracy intensifies when Tracy declares her desire to integrate the show. Meanwhile, Tracy's desire for social justice intensifies as her budding friendship with Seaweed J. Stubbs (Brian Horne), his sister Little Inez (Monastasia Williams) and mother Motormouth Maybelle (Imani Medlin) grows, and the trio shows her the true meaning of soul. Although she knows it will surely get her thrown off the show and endanger her budding romance with heartthrob Link Larkin (Christian Musto), Tracy decides to fight to the end for social justice.

           

Cloaked in the comedy of cross-dressing and teenage crushes, some serious messages about the changing mood of the '60s emerge with the romance of Penny and Seaweed and the protest rally that lands Tracy and her friends behind bars. In the process, Maybelle teaches Edna a lesson in embracing her largeness, Link sees through the shallow prejudices of Amber and Velma and declares his love for Tracy, as the Corny Collins Show finally breaks the color barrier. Other leads roles were played by Emma Thurston as Prudy Pingleton, Matt Mowery as Mr. Pinky, Hannah Piazza as the gym teacher, Derek Topper as Harriman F. Spitzer, Emily Crean as the matron, Brendan Gavigan as the principal and KJ Morton as the guard.

 

The show was artfully directed by Vanessa Krywe, with Emma Thurston taking on the role of student director. Marino Bragino III led the pit orchestra with a funk and blues flair, as Michael Capobianco brought the spirited vocals to perfection as musical director. Marcus Quiroga gave his own professional style to the spirited choreography, and stage manager Bryan Tripptree and his crew deftly handled all the scene changes. Working with technical director and master carpenter Corey Healy, Kenneth Horgan created the dazzling scenic designs.