Hairspray is set in Baltimore, USA way back in 1962. This was a year in which:
- A loaf of bread cost 20 cents, fuel cost 8c a litre
- It was the year of the Cuban missile crisis
- The year that spiderman first appeared in a comic book
- The year of the first ever James Bond film
It was also a year where teenagers across America were dancing to the Buddy Deane Show. Screening every weekday it featured young performers, singing and dancing and showing their talents and featuring the hottest artists of the time.
The Buddy Deane Show was not integrated. This means that white performers did not feature at the same time as performers of colour. In fact, only once a fortnight did we see African American performers in their exclusive segment. This reflects the time of 1962. In this time racial segregation was common across America:
- Public spaces had signs like “no colours allowed”, these could be seen in parks, beaches, cafes, and even public bathrooms
- Movie theatres and buses had separate spaces to sit
- The NBA had only just begun allowing interracial teams a few years earlier
- Several states made interracial marriage illegal, and some were jailed for marrying someone of a different race.
And this is only 54 years ago. The Buddy Deane Show, in its 5 year run on TV attempted integration, by having white and coloured performers dance together. But the show didn’t last long after this decision was made. It was cancelled by 1964 because the audience and sponsors fell away. The Civil Rights Movement was yet to really take off, and this effort to change the culture was unsuccessful.
Hairspray is inspired by this story. It turns the Buddy Deane Show into The Corny Collins Show and tells us how Tracy Turnblad gets a place on the show and starts challenging the racial segregation. It has an uplifting story – celebrating diversity. And while we can enjoy Hairspray and celebrate how far we’ve come, we always need to remember history and the places our society has been so we can learn from them.
Hairspray opens next Tuesday, with a four night run. Tuesday night is our gala opening which costs $25 and includes drink and dessert. Wed-Fri is just $10 for students and $15 for adults. Tickets are very limited and can be bought from the school office. Friday is effectively sold out but there are still limited tickets available for the other three nights, but they won’t remain for long. More info on the facebook event here.