The 1960’s comes alive in Azusa Pacific Theater’s latest production “Hairspray.” The eight-time Tony-winning Broadway show, is based in Baltimore in 1962 and tells the story of young Tracy Turnblad who gets shunned at school because of her appearance. The overweight teen just wants to be accepted—and to dance.
“Hairspray is about acceptance and equality,” Jesse Corti, a guest artist and director of the APU production, said. “[It’s] a coming-of-age show told through rock and roll.”
“Hairspray” was originally a film by filmmaker/director John Waters released in 1988, which was made into a successful Broadway musical winning multiple awards including eight Tonys and won Best Musical Show Album at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards.
“It deals with truth, and it deals with confronting those demons prejudices and judgments,” Corti said.
Markell Smith, an acting major, plays Seaweed J. Stubbs and said that “Hairspray” “opens up conversation about the past and present race issues we are all dealing with as human beings.”
The play deals with race and prejudice, issues that have been playing out in city after city over the last few years.
But not only does “Hairspray” deal with issues that transcend time, it is also more than that. Alli Roberti, a junior BFA acting major who plays Tracy Turnblad said, “‘Hairspray’ is a show for absolutely everyone. Not only is it pure fun and entertainment, but it also carries a message that is still relevant today.”
She personally relates it to the message of Christ.
“The story is really focused on the fact that we all are created in the image of God regardless of our race, our appearance or our sins. Everyone in this story finds redemption, and it is a beautiful thing for our audiences to see,” Roberti said.
The cast and crew have been preparing constantly for the show since January, rehearsing six days a week. Some rehearsals went well into the morning hours.
The crew worked hard to create beautiful sets that embody the 1960’s world of Baltimore and “everything from lighting to wigs took hours of hard work and look amazing,” Roberti said.
Corti, as a guest director, commends the APU theater program. “Everything here is excellent. The cast and crew are eager to work and are very well prepared,” Corti said.
When walking into the theater you can expect to see and hear the 1960’s. The outside hall leading into the Warehouse Theater has glass enclosures that show events and pop culture in America. At will call, where you pick up your tickets, there is a video playing that shows life in the late 50’s and early 60’s to transport the audience back to that era.
When the show starts, though, that’s when the fun really begins. Roberti wants the audience to know that they should expect to be blown away by “the sky-high hair and the show-stopping dance breaks.”
Corti spoke about a character in the show named Inez, a young African-American girl who goes to the TV talent show wanting to dance and compete but instead gets turned away.
The show follows dynamic characters. Tracy, who is white but is overweight, is also turned away because the show’s producers say she doesn’t look right.
The show follows some wonderful characters. One is not the right color, the other is overweight to be included in the Corny Collins show, Corti said.
“It is a joyous picture of the unity we have in Christ,” Roberti agrees with Corti. “‘Hairspray’ is unforgettable. It promises laughter, love and the joy of live musical theater.”
The show runs through April 16 at the Warehouse Theater. For ticket information, contact the Felix Event Center Box Office at (626) 815-5494.