Totally groovy! Hairspray the Musical takes over American Stage in the Park

April 21, 2017 by JULIE GARISTO | PERFORMING ARTS
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The song-and-dance version of John Waters’ cult classic can be enjoyed outdoors by the Bay at Demens Landing, St. Petersburg, through May 14.

Bust out the Aquanet! American Stage celebrates 30 years of its annual outdoor production event, American Stage in the Park, with Hairspray the Musical, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical, inspired by the critically acclaimed 1988 film Hairspray, written and directed by John Waters.

American Stage’s outdoor production revives the delicious camp and social consciousness of Waters’ script, directed and choreographed by Shain Stroff with  24 actors both national and local. The large cast features  Matthew McGee as Edna Turnblad, Scott Daniel as Corny Collins, Allyson Pace as Tracy Turnblad, Alison Burns as Velma Von Tussle, Jayne Trinette as Motormouth Maybelle, David Michael Bevis as Link Larkin and more.

The story,set in 1962 in Baltimore, and follows the lovable “pleasantly plump” teen Tracy Turnblad, whose dream comes true to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. Almost overnight, she morphs from social outcast to sudden star, and chooses to use her newfound power to expose racial injustice.

Inspired by teen magazines of the 1960s — when the musical is set — Creative Pinellas thought it might be groovy to offer a Teen Beat-style profile of four of Hairspray‘s stars.

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Who do you think is the dreamiest? I only have eyes for one man in my life, Joe my husband of 3 years. A close second on the dreamy meter would be David Michael Bevis who plays the velvet voiced Link Larkin.

What tunes make you want to dance? I love the Post Modern Jukebox versions of many popular songs. Anything from the early 90’s really makes me want to dance though!

How much labor and hairspray goes into making your hair stand on end? I am grateful for Scott Daniel who designed all the wigs for the show, because I can’t imagine how much hairspray and teasing would go into making hair as big as what you will see on that stage! My own hair has 3 styles… just washed, straight, and most often the messy top knot!

What advice would you give to young girls trying to make it that they might not have heard already? The best advice I can give to girls wanting to go into this business is to show your true self. We spend so much time preparing to show the casting directors what we could play instead of just showing them who we are and let them place us accordingly. Another piece of advice is remember to tell the story, whether it’s an entire show or just 16 bars, your words are a journey. Don’t just aim for hitting the highest notes or most impressive runs, just tell us the story! Tracy’s journey is an amazing story to tell. She is full of love, confidence, positivity, and acceptance. I am so lucky to tell her story every night!

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Did your mom ever take over something in your life or show up at a youth function and embarrass you? I takes a lot to embarrass me. I was very close with my mother growing up (still am!). If I had to point to anything about her that embarrassed me as a kid, it would be just how boisterous she was during curtain call. My mom and family almost fire guns in the air when I bow! Yeehaw!!

How do you work up those maternal feelings while playing Tracy’s mom? I’ve actually gotten to play mothers to really great actors in the past few years. Actors like Sara DelBeato, Nick Lerew, Will Garrabrant and Zachary Hines! I guess it comes naturally as I love to care for people. Also, as I age as an actor/actress it seems that mothers are part of the territory. Am I entering my Grande Dame Guignol phase?

Which leading man would you’d like to play the dad in your household? I’m currently enamored with my Wilbur, Thomas Mothershed! If I had to choose any other daddy for my household, it would have to be John Waters.

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What makes you feel groovy while playing Corny Collins? I’m always pretty groovy, but this score is hard to not dance to or not sing along with. And Michael Raabe and the incredible band breathe life into every measure.

Did you have to learn new dance moves for this role?  Being a dancer, all of the steps are in there from all the classes and training that I have had. Shain has done an amazing job at making the choreography authentic to the period but keeping us all on our toes with his fun and high energy twists on classic ’60s dance steps. Typically, Corny doesn’t dance much in the show, but you will see me grooving along with some fancy footwork in the American Stage production. I’m also the dance captain for the show, so I’ve actually had to learn all of the choreography so I can assist in keeping the show fresh and polished as the show runs.

What advice would you give people dealing with racist or unfair bosses? One of my favorite lines in the play is said by Motormouth Maybelle — played beautifully by my friend Jayne Trinette — and it’s, “you won’t be the first, and you won’t be the last, and I’ve been lining up at that door a lot longer than you.” I connect with that text. The reality that many groups are still fighting for equal rights is very evident in our present climate. This line reminds us that we should continue to fight against injustice because with each generation we move further and further towards our goals of equality for all. Stand up for what you believe and others will follow. You are even more powerful fighting for a group of people that you are not necessarily a part of. I try to do that daily.

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Who’s the dreamiest in your world? Sam Cooke is the dreamiest. His hit song “A Change Is Gonna Come” was sung with heart and soul. He not only sang from the heart, he helped create change in the Civil Rights Movement. Motormouth believes in equality!

Would you perform a cabaret show as Motormouth Maybelle? If I were to pay tribute in a cabaret as Motormouth, I’d have to say I’d start with Aretha Franklin! She started off singing Gospel music. Her spirit filled performances took her on tour with Dr. Martin Luther King. This strong woman started her journey in the Civil Rights movement at 16. Our lives are forever changed by her musical contributions.

Do you love the tunes of the 1960s? I do love the music of the ’60s. The music sound like artists finally recognized how their individuality could be expressed through song lyrics. The ’60s revealed the truth about how we can truly love and inspire our fellow man.

Is it your favorite decade for R&B/Motown music, or do you prefer another?  My favorite decade for R&B is the 1980’s. The musical acts crossed over to every generation and released an overall desire to unite! Songs like “We Are The World” by Michael Jackson and “Love Has  No Color” by The Winans remind me of how important it is to stay connected to the beauty of being human.  Embracing who we are and not focusing on the difference in our appearance.

 

Hairspray the Musical performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday;

Opening Night Gala, 6  p.m. Friday, April 21

Pride in the Park, Sunday, April 30

Pets in the Park, Sunday, May 7

Demens Landing  is at First Ave. S.E. and Bayshore Blvd., St. Petersburg. Tickets range from $18 to $40 with reserved seating options.

Green Bench Brewing crafted the Integrated Blonde Ale for the production.

Gala Under the Stars, Opening Night begins at 6 p.m. on April 21 with a gourmet dinner from Parkshore Grill Catering and an open bar of wine provided by Southern Wine and Spirits and Constellation Brands, and beer provided by Green Bench Brewing Co., followed by the 8 p.m. performance. Guests will enjoy a host of activities before the show, that help provide support for American Stage’s artistic and educational programs year-round. This includes a live auction with a one of a kind glass art piece created by Duncan McClellan inspired by the American Stage in the Park production. For information on this and future promotions, visit americanstage.org.
 

 

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