Hairspray – 2016 Production

Newlands College has a proud tradition of producing outstanding musicals that are exciting to be part of, and entertaining to watch. For those of us that have been previous years, you would have been spellbound by the magic of the Wizard of Oz, transported to Camelot for the hilarious Monty Python’s Spamalot, and most recently taken to the hip swiveling 50s for the Elvis Presley jukebox musical All Shook Up. This year, the next stepping stone in the Newlands College musical canon is one we are confident can soar to the same outstanding heights. Today I’m going to tell you a bit more about the musical this year and then explain how you can get involved.

hairsprayThe musical for 2016 is of course ‘Hairspray’ – many of us know the film with John Travolta and Zac Efron that came out in 2007, but Hairspray has had a significant life before this. It actually begins in 1988 with a film starring Rikki Lake as Tracy and Devine – a transvestite performer – as Edna. The film was made by John Waters who was an underground filmmaker who made his name through his cinema of ultra bad taste. The 1988 Hairspray became a cult classic on home video after doing a small box office at the cinema.

After residing on VHS in the back corner of every video store throughout the 90s, Hairspray got the Broadway treatment in 2002. The show opened to rave critical reviews and huge audiences. It won 8 Tony awards (which is like the Oscars for the stage) and ran for 2,500 performances, finally closing in 2009 seven years later. During that exceptional run, the 2007 film came out which most of you seem to be familiar with. The film is a bit different to the stage musical – so there’s plenty in there to surprise you.

The show opens in 1962 in Baltimore USA. Tracy Turnbald is a plump teenager dreaming of stardom on daytime local TV. The opening scene has her singing about this as she makes her way through the streets of Baltimore on her way to school.

The local TV show she dreams of being part of is of course The Corny Collins Show. The people on the show are all white, and once a month they have “negro day”. Reflecting 1962 when the show is set, pre the civil rights movement, there was no integration with separate spaces in society for blacks and whites and separate spaces to dance in. This clip is from the 2007 film,

Hairspray is about the breaking down of these barriers, as Tracy meets Seaweed, Little Inez and Motormouth Maybelle who all help her to encourage others to not judge people by what is on the outside. Along the way there are characters falling in love, going to prison, being broken out of prison using hairspray and a lighter, playing dodgeball, getting detention, hearing bells, running and telling that, and a whole lot lot more. The climax is a huge celebration of all the themes of the show, announcing in grand fashion that indeed you can not stop the beat…

If you want to be part of this magnificent opportunity, then we want you to audition. We are looking to fill the stage with both boys and girls. There are a key roles that will be cast through callbacks as well as some minor roles that will be cast later on down the rehearsal process. This includes…

  • We are looking for a Edna Turnbald. This is a drag role, played by a boy with a deep voice in a fat suit. This is a comic role with all the best lines.
  • We are looking for a Motormouth, who belts out three massive number including the lyrically fun “Big, Blonde and Beautiful”
  • We are looking for a Link Larkin, someone that oozes cool that can sing and serenade his one true love
  • We need an Amber, who basically needs to turn her nose up at everyone and act like Regina George until the final number

We need people that can sing, dance and act as everyone on stage will be required to do all three. We won’t be running acting auditions this year to save time – but there are plenty of roles that don’t involve singing that we will cast once rehearsals have begun.  You do not have to be an outstanding singer, or the world’s best dancer. We are looking for a balanced cast with lots of people that have different strengths. We need people who can sing in tune with a bit of volume and people that can move confidently to music.

When we approach the casting, we will be looking at who has the best attributes that fit a particular role. But one of those attributes will not be your race or the colour of your skin. For example we need a group to portray African American characters in the protest scene – however the race of these characters will be shown through the costume, the blocking and the direction of the scene. We will not be using makeup to show race. This is called blackface, which has a dark history in the United States. Blackface was used to alienate black performers, reinforce negative stereotypes and perpetuate ignorance that has eroded with the civil rights movement. Blackface is a practice that is extremely offensive and won’t be something our production, or any other production of Hairspray for that matter, will go anywhere near. 

The auditions will be on lunchtimes and after school this Thursday, Friday and Monday. To prepare for the audition you need to go to the Hairspray website. There is link straight from the moodle homepage. On this site you can find out all about Hairspray, including more about the plot, numbers, characters, and how we are approaching casting. You can click the audition tab to prepare and sign up through the google form. See me at the Dean’s Room if you have any issues with this online process.

On the audition page you will be able to see the song that you will asked to sing at you singing audition and very shortly the clip that has the dance routine we will ask you to show us. We are looking for a committed and enthusiastic cast which means we want to see you prepared for the audition, having learnt the dance routine and being familiar with the song. Next week we will ask some to come back for callbacks to cast the leads. And later that week we will post the chorus list of those that have been successful on the Hairspray website. We wish we could take everybody that wants to be involved – but practical reasons means that we have to limit the number of people we have in the cast.

The production remains a significant highlight on the school calendar. Even if performing isn’t your thing, there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved backstage, in the design, publicity or the technical side. Otherwise we hope to see all of you in the audience for what will be another outstanding Newlands College musical production.

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