Enthusiastic New York critics used words like “sweet” and “bubblegum flavored” to describe the original 2007 stage production of Hairspray, the Broadway Musical. This is not the kind of concoction Director Bob Navis Jr. wants to whip up in the Near West Theatre version of the show, opening Friday, July 20, for eight performances at 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland.
Not that this singing, dancing romp won’t be a ton of tasty fun. Its energetic score and story will be brought to life by a cast of 45 ranging in age from 13 to 21, plus two slightly older guys, one of them playing a woman. But the real deliciousness of the play, Navis says, is in its spicy social critique, fed by deep roots in the dark work of filmmaker John Waters. By having the cast view and discuss a documentary on Waters’ career as a filmmaker and author – including the making of the original non-musical film Hairspray (1988) – Navis hopes to infuse the musical with some of Waters’ rebellious, critical, shock-art flavor.
Navis points out that hairspray, the substance, holds things in an artificial,unnatural shape. Hairspray is about rebelling against that very kind of restriction. Its characters challenge assumptions about body image, racial segregation and other social conventions of 1962 America. Navis wants the young actors to tap into their own experiences of being labeled, marginalized or just frozen in place and energize their characters with the life force that fights all of that.
With an interracial cast from the city and the suburbs, Hairspray is Near West Theatre’s 35th consecutive summer youth theatre production. It runs July 20 through Aug. 5. Tickets and information are available online or by calling 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.
Cast of Hairspray, the Broadway Musical, Near West Theatre, 2012 (actors’ names in bold)
Tracy Turnblad: Jacqueline Uhlik. Corny Collins: Oliver Deak. Edna Turnblad: Jordan Cooper. Prudy Pingleton: Anna Kukelhan. Penny Pingleton: Annie Kostell. Velma Von Tussle: Becca Frick. Amber Von Tussle: Brianna Quinn. Link Larkin: Adam Barstow. Harriman F. Spritzer: Jordan Strange. Wilbur Turnblad: Perren Hedderson. Little Inez: Hayden Neidhardt. Principal: Craig Juricka. Seaweed Stubbs: Justin Woody. Duane: Roderick Cardwell II. Gilbert: Yousef Raslan. Lorraine: Shekinah “CoCo” Smith. Stooie: Joshua Bevel. Mr. Pinky: Devin Sudman. Gym Teacher: Taylor Slivka. Motormouth Maybelle: Mariah Burks. Cindy Watkins: Nedra Grooms. Matron: Hannah Jarrell. Council Members — Tammy: Lindsey Davis. Brad: Kenneth Kalynchuk. Fender: Dyllan Becker. Brenda: Katie Medvec. Sketch: Andrew Eder. Shelley: Erin Sheplavy. IQ: Billy Burke. Lou Ann: Amanda Tidwell. The Dynamites: Sara Danielle Chapman, Olivia Clark, Shekinah “CoCo” Smith. The Company (Baltimore Street People, Adults in Charge, Sixties Stars, Students, Protestors, and more): Joshua Bevel, Roderick Cardwell II, Sara Danielle Chapman, Olivia Clark, Alicia Cleveland, Christian Flaherty, Audrey Fratus, Edward Gale, Quin Galvin, Venchise Glenn, Nigeria Gould, Nedra Grooms, Maggie Halm, Cyndi Hill, Hannah Jarrell, Craig Juricka, Anna Kukelhan, Jack McDonough, Yousef Raslan, Andy Schumann, Taylor Slivka, Shekinah “CoCo” Smith, Devin Sudman, Craig Wischmeyer.
Director: Bob Navis Jr. Musical Director: Jordan Cooper. Choreographer: Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek. Technical Director and Production Manager: Josh Padgett. Stage Manager: Ryan Wolf. Scenic and Properties Designer: Laura Carlson Tarantowski. Costume Designer: Heather Brown. Props Mistress: Jessica Rosenlieb. Lighting Co-Designers: Rob Wachala, Terrii Zernechel. Sound Designer: Josh Caraballo. Assistant Director: Kelcie Dugger. Assistant Technical Director: Perren Hedderson. Assistant Choreographers: Kim Flaherty, Jen Hicks. Assistant Stage Managers: Hilary Hapgood (costumes), Sara Hess (scenic), Alexa Jones (props). Props Assistant: Kate Atherton. Keyboard / Conductor: Rachel Woods.