Several high school-aged kids in the Akron area won’t have any problem saying what they did during their summer vacation.
Students from many public and private high schools, along with at least one home-schooled student, responded to a city-wide call for auditions put out by the Akron Civic Theatre in cooperation with the Advocates for the Akron Visual and Performing Arts (AAVPA). Voila, a 70-member cast will give three performances June 15-16 in a production of the first all-city musical “Hairspray.”
Akron Civic Theatre (a Knight Arts grantee), according to Howard Parr, executive director, is playing the role of producer for the first time.
It seems to me a version of a hit Broadway musical is both a good call and, in this case, a perfect choice.
The plot revolves around high school kids (the in-crowd versus outsiders like Tracy Turnblad and Penny Pingleton); dancing (Corny Collins’ teen dance show that Tracy hopes to become a regular on); concerns for their “look” (in the form of a teen model for hairspray – and thereby the show’s title); learning how to get along socially (accepting people for their looks and racial background); and yes, finding their first loves.
Conflicts arise (as with most teen-oriented shows) from jealous rivals and domineering and intrusive parents. Character Amber von Tussle and her mother lie, cheat and steal to become the fashion representative and to keep the dominant society “white.” Seaweed’s mother, Motormouth Maybelle, and Tracy’s mom, Edna (a role traditionally played by a male), intervene and side with their children in matters of racial integration, and indeed help the kids fight the good fight.
Days before the curtain goes up, this “Hairspray” is coming together.
The choral sound during a recent rehearsal is amazing. Cast members seem to have picked up readily on 1960s dance music and silky rhythm and blues. Kay Caprez (as lead Tracy Turnblad) is particularly good at getting across the lyrics to the story being told, while Felicia Ferguson (as Motormouth Maybelle) has found the perfect song for her voice in the belt-it-out hefty and meaty “Big Blonde and Beautiful.”
Dance scenes are getting worked as the actors get used to the stage and finding their spacing.
That leaves acting (although Tiffany Cagwin as the daffy Penny Pingleton and Jonathan Gruich as the charming heartthrob Link are set to go), staging, sets, lighting and costumes. But, as with most productions, they are in process and probably will be worked on right up to opening night.
When sets come, when wigs go on, when bright lights hit them in a darkened theater — these young actors will no doubt feel the thrill of theater magic and bring it all together. For most of them it’s their first or second time on the stage; judging from how they are getting into it, it won’t be their last.
“Hairspray” at Akron Civic Theatre, 182 S. Main St., Akron; box office, 330-253-2488; www.akroncivic.com . Performances are Friday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 16 at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$25.