‘Hairspray’: Dance and music with a message
By Lorenzo Salinas
A social revolution becomes fun and dance-worthy as local theater actors put on their best mod dresses and step back to the 1960s.
Port Arthur Little Theatre is getting set to debut its first-ever production of the American musical “Hairspray” this weekend at its location on 4701 Jimmy Johnson Blvd.
The musical is one that celebrates integration, friendship and the ability to be one’s own self no matter what others may say.
Show with a message
Director Debbie Pletcher said the show revolves around the exploits of a teenage girl who starts a movement for social change at the local dance program.
“‘Hairspray’ is set in 1962 Baltimore and follows an overweight girl named Tracy Turnblad who is an outcast and she wonders why everyone can’t get along,” Pletcher said.
Tracy’s dream in life is to perform on The Corny Collins Show, something akin to American Bandstand back in the day.
Pletcher said the play sports a very diverse cast in which Tracy rallies everyone together to protest and promote integrated TV.
“It’s comedy, but it has a deeper meaning,” she said.
Playing the lead
McKenna Bradford and Bree Cloud both play the lead role of Tracy. They remarked on the character’s appeal to them.
“It has to be her acceptance of everyone,” Bradford said. “She doesn’t see the differences in everybody; she sees what brings us all together.”
“I love her outlook on life,” Cloud said. “She has big dreams, she loves dancing and she is trying to integrate everyone in the show.”
“I have been trying to do the show for a while now,” Pletcher said. “It’s a fun show with meaning. There are so many issues it deals with that even in the country today — especially in the country today — it’s very topical.”
Such issues or themes include freedom of expression, racial prejudice and social change.
“Music unites everyone in the end,” Pletcher said. “I think it’s a good message.”
Good to be bad
Even the villain or antagonist seems to be a role enjoyed by those playing it.
Jillian Fontenot plays Amber, the girl who would do almost anything in order to win.
“She is the queen bee of The Corny Collins Show. If she doesn’t get her way, she’ll let you know it,” Fontenot said.
Fontenot describes her character not necessarily as the villain but rather the antagonist. Amber would storm off the stage if she feels upstaged — in particular by main character Tracy.
“During the scene, she feels that Tracy is stealing her thunder,” Fontenot said. “So, it would be me and my mother, Ms. Velma, against her.”
Madyline Rogers, however, would call Amber a villain — and a fun one at that. She too plays Amber.
“It’s my first time playing a villain onstage and I like it,” Rogers said. “It’s fun to be mean.”
The turnout for “Hairspray” has been notably high for a play in PALT.
“I’m so excited because it’s one of the first times we have had such a huge turnout from the African American population to audition,” Pletcher said. “We probably have about 36 people in the cast… Overall, we had over 95 people turn out to audition.”
Pletcher also said “Hairspray” will be the very first show for a lot of the actors and actresses involved.
She admitted that having so many people new to theater could be a challenge at times, but that it was mitigated by everyone’s positive attitudes.
“We’ve had auditions since Memorial Day,” Pletcher said. “We’ve had strictly musical rehearsals and choreography rehearsals and we’ve managed to put it all together.”
Pletcher said she would like everyone who comes to the show to walk away with two things: “1.) I want it to make them feel good and smile. 2.) I want it to make them want to dance.”
Dates and times
“Hairspray” starts at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays. It will run the weekends of July 27, Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.
For reservations, call 409-727-7258. Tickets cost $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, active military and teachers and $10 for students.