By Kenneth Jones
September 9, 2003
Baltimore gets a slice of its own musical and cultural history, whimsical though it may be, with the Sept. 9 launch of the national tour of Hairspray at the Morris Mechanic Theatre.Newcomer Carly Jibson is daughter Tracy to Bruce Vilanch’s mama Edna when the national tour of Hairspray makes its debut Sept. 9-21 in the Maryland city. The Baltimore-set show is based on the film by Baltimore native John Waters, and was inspired by a real-life TV dance show in the city, in the 1960s.
On Broadway, the show won 2003 Tony Awards for Best Score (Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman), Best Book (Thomas Meehan and Mark O’Donnell), Best Actress in a Musical (Marissa Jaret Winokur), Best Actor (Harvey Fierstein), Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Dick Latessa), Best Costume Design (William Ivey Long), Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical.
The cast for the touring company of the 2003 Tony Award winning Best Musical also includes Jordan Ballard as Tracy’s nemesis, Amber Von Tussle; Troy Britton Johnson as dance show host Corny Collins; Terron Brooks as soul rich Seaweed; Susan Cella (The Graduate, Me and My Girl) as Velma Von Tussle; Charlotte Crossley as Motormouth Maybelle, Seaweed’s mom; Sandra DeNise as Tracy’s pal Penny Pingleton; Joanna Glushak (recently of Urinetown) as the Female Authority Figure (including Penny’s mom and a prison matron); Blake Hammond (The Music Man) as the Male Authority Figure (including Harriman Spritzer and Mr. Pinky); Austin Miller as crooner-teen Link Larkin; Todd Susman as “Timeless to Me” hubby Wilbur Turnblad; and Kianna Underwood as Seaweed’s sister Little Inez.
Rehearsals began in Manhattan July 28. Vilanch is with the tour as Edna Turnblad only through July 18, 2004.
Hairspray’s ensemble, standbys and swings are Joe Abraham, Cameron Adams, Jacqueline Arnold, Lindsay Chambers, E. Clayton Cornelius, Bryan Crawford, Michael Cunio, Angela Gaylor, Jesse Johnson, Lauren Kling, Diedre Lang, Alli Mauzey, Kenny Morris, Nraca, Cjay Hardy, Sabrina Scherff, Keala Settle, Jason Snow, Leonard Sullivan, Donna Vivino, Bryan West and Willis White.
Vilanch, who is not known as an actor or a musical comedy star, is a bigger-than-life personality who is respected as a writer and comic who has served as a writer for the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys and Grammys. In Hairspray he plays Edna Turnblad, a role created in the Broadway run by Harvey Fierstein, who won a Tony Award for his drag turn.
Vilanch is author of the book, “Bruce! My Adventures in the Skin Trade and Other Essays,” and was the subject of a documentary film, “Get Bruce!” He has performed a one man show, billed as a “bio comedy,” in engagements around the country.
Dates through 2004 are booked, and the tour is expected to have a long life into 2005.
Hairspray’s original creative team reunites for the tour. Jack O’Brien (who won the Tony for his work) directs and Tony nominee Jerry Mitchell choreographs.
This musical stage version of the John Waters-directed film is a kind of latter-day Bye Bye Birdie, with edge: Chubby high schooler Tracy Turnblad wants to appear on the Baltimore TV dance show and ends up integrating the program, getting the coolest guy in school and transforming herself and her blowsy mom from drab to fab in 1962 Maryland.
Designers are David Rockwell (scenic), William Ivey Long (costume), Kenneth Posner (lighting) and Steve C. Kennedy (sound).
The Broadway production continues at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Hairspray is produced by Margo Lion; Adam Epstein; The Baruch?Viertel?Routh?Frankel Group; James D. Stern/Douglas L. Meyer; Rick Steiner/Frederic H. Mayerson; SEL & GFO; New Line Cinema, in association with Clear Channel Entertainment; A. Gordon/E. McAllister; D. Harris/M. Swinsky; J.&B. Osher.
For tour dates, visit Playbill On-Line’s tour listings by clicking here.
The Hairspray website can be found at hairsprayontour.com.
Buddy Deane, whose popular Baltimore dance show was the model for Hairspray’s “Corny Collins Show,” died in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on July 16 of complications from a stroke, the New York Times reported. He was 78.
“The Buddy Deane Show” ran on Baltimore’s WJZ-TV from 1957 to 1964. Deane hosted a crowd of exuberant teens, who danced to the music of live rock bands, including many name acts. (Bill Haley and the Comets first performed “Rock Around the Clock” on the show.) The show ran for two and-a-half hours, six days a week and was a local sensation.
In the musical Hairspray, inspired Baltimore native John Waters’ movie of the same name, “The Corny Collins Show” is home of “The Nicest Kids in Town.” Hefty heroine Tracy Turnblad’s fondest wishes are to become a dancer on the show, catch its dreamy star Link and integrate the program to feature African-American dancers.
The New York Times reported that Mr. Deane’s show was not integrated during its run?not because WJZ-TV resisted, but because the southern city of Baltimore was perceived as not being ready for such a move.