Winthrop’s theatre and music departments have joined forces to put on the musical “Hairspray.” The musical depicts a story of a plus-size heroine, Tracy Turnblad, who has a passion for dancing. Fighting against the odds, she wins a spot on a local TV dance program becoming a celebrity overnight.
“Hairspray” incorporates song and dance numbers to provide political and social commentary on America in the 1960s. The original Broadway production ran for more than 2,500 performances, won eight Tony Awards and was turned into a major motion film.
Director Stephen Gundersheim said the theatre department selects the season of performances as a committee, basing their decision on what is a good fit for the teachers, students and the audience.
“I don’t think I can explain it better than Corny, a character from the show, when he says, ‘it’s time for a show that looks like the kids who watch the show,’” Gunderseim said. “I know I messed that quote up, but the point is that the show represents our student body.”
Gundersheim said most people coming to watch the show may expect it to be a lot like the movie, but some things are different.
“Since we are basing it off of the film, it’s difficult. It’s easy to go from one scene to the next or show a day has passed in a movie. It’s a lot harder with a play,” Gundersheim said.
The show is “joyous and energized” and the cast and crew were “incredibly committed” according to Gundersheim. The love story isn’t a traditional love story.
“I like that the chubby girl gets the boy, and in the midst of the silliness of the show, the audience can still walk away with a message about the Civil Rights Movement,” Gundersheim said.
The message of the show is clear to the cast members as well.
“I really hope the audience gets the powerful message of this show. No matter your shape, size or color, if you have a dream then go for it,” said Chandler Robinson, a junior music education major playing Seaweed. “We are all the same. You should love and accept everybody.”
Brittany Johnson, a sophomore dance education major playing one of The Dynamites, said she hopes the audience gets a greater sense of how racism affects people and understand that no matter where you come from, your size or color, it’s who you are on the inside.
“It’s really about the substance of a person. Everyone is perfectly them,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she decided to audition for the show because the show is put on in February, which is black history month and the show gives an important message about racism and equality.
“I feel the show depicts black pride,” Johnson said. “It makes me feel good about being a black performer and it really has a great message.”
The members of the cast all found a way to connect with their characters in some way. Robinson said his character Seaweed likes to have fun, but isn’t afraid to stand up for what he believes in.
“He just follows his heart and I can relate to that,” Robinson said.
“My character is a member of The Dynamites,” Johnson said. “I’m usually a conservative person and I’m not outgoing, but I’m different on stage. I’m fierce, fun-loving and sexy, which is what being a Dynamite is all about.”
Jonathon Hoskins, a sophomore theatre performance major playing Link, said he relates to the fact that his character is a performer.
“He’s also a pretty boy and I’ve been called a pretty boy,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said he’s honored to have been in such a great collaboration between students and two different departments.
“The collaboration between the two departments, music and theatre, is always fun,” Gundersheim said.
Performances will run from Feb. 20 through Feb. 23 from 8 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. and Feb. 24 from 2 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. in Johnson Theatre.
Tickets are $10 with a Winthrop ID and $15 for general admission. High school students, students from other universities and senior citizens should inquire at the box office about special pricing.