ROCK HILL, S.C. — For weeks, Winthrop University theatre major Charish Harvey’s favorite part of the day has been rehearsals for Hairspray, a new production from the Department of Theatre and Dance in collaboration with the Department of Music.
Beginning Feb. 20, everyone will get to see why, when the production opens at 8 p.m. in Johnson Theatre.
The 60s-era musical tells the story of the lovable plus-size Tracy Turnblad, whose passion for dancing leads her and best friend Penny to try out for a spot on a local TV dance program. She becomes a teen sensation, encouraged by her mother Edna—played by Philip Calabro—and father Wilbur, played by Allyn Hunt, and falls for handsome Link Larkin, played by Jonathan Hoskins. But underneath the upbeat song-and-dance numbers like “You Can't Stop the Beat” and “Good Morning, Baltimore” lay important messages.
“What we try to do is give the audience what they expect, but also try to do things a little differently,” said Stephen Gundersheim, director and associate professor of theatre and dance. “It is silly, fluffy and fun. But in the midst of it, there are some deeper, larger issues.”
These issues focus on the racially charged tension of the time through prejudice and interracial romance and the main character coming to terms with her size.
Tracy is a character Harvey has related to since she watched the 1988 film version of Hairspray, upon which the Broadway musical is based, calling it her “dream role.”
“That was the first musical that I really engaged in,” she said. “I just loved Tracy’s story. She’s different, and that’s OK. … Every time I perform, I have just a little side of Tracy in me. I think, ‘I may be different, but I can still do this.’”
Bringing such a popular film to the big stage is “deceptively easy,” Gundersheim explained, because you’re “fighting against another medium.” The crew has worked hard to give the vibe of different locations on one stage, create exciting choreography through Charlotte choreographer Linda Booth and ensure movements and dialogue are befitting of the era. Cast and crew have worked afternoons and weekends putting everything together.
“The mood of students involved in the show is exciting,” he said. “Their work level is very high.”
Additional cast members include Kate Meyers as Penny Pingleton; Mona Bailey as her mother Prudy Pingleton; Patricia Blair and Emily Cupit as Velma and Amber Von Tussle; Kyle Bleau as Corny Collins; Jennifer Sainyo as Motormouth Maybelle and Chandler Robinson as Seaweed J. Stubbs, Penny’s boyfriend.
Show times are 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20-Saturday, Feb. 23 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24. Tickets are $10 with a Winthrop ID or $15 general admission. Reserved seating is available. Call 803/323-4014 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets. It is a cultural event.