By Kenneth Jones
January 27, 2004
The process to recast the indelible Harvey Fierstein in Broadway’s Hairspray has begun, though so far only a casting director has seen the potential actors who may fill the pumps of Edna Turnblad, producer Margo Lion told Playbill On-Line.Fierstein, who snagged a Tony Award for his work in the musical comedy, exits the show May 2. A published report that Michael McKean (“A Mighty Wind,” “Laverne & Shirley”) is the next Edna is premature, Lion said Jan. 27. Producer Lion confirmed, reluctantly, that McKean is one of several people casting directors have seen for the buxom Baltimore hausfrau role.
“The problem is, [director] Jack [O’Brien] isn’t here,” Lion explained. “So we have to send whoever is auditioning out [to California]. We will have a decision within the next couple of weeks. We don’t have one right now. The director hasn’t seen some of the people we’re considering.”
Premature reporting about casting possibilities when deals aren’t signed — a practice fairly standard nowadays, even on Playbill On-Line when sources are solid —”is extremely unfair to the actors,” Lion said.
What’s the task of recasting Edna like?
“It’s obviously a challenge,” Lion admitted. “We have a very wonderful actor in it. I think the important thing is to realize that each time it will be reinvented by the person who does it. We wouldn’t look for, want, or hire anyone who wanted to just copy Harvey because Harvey is so idiosyncratic and unique it would be impossible. It’s fun hearing it done different ways. God willing, we’ll make a great decision and people will see [the role] another way.”
Is there a chance Bruce Vilanch, who plays Edna on the road, will visit the Broadway staging?
A cagey Lion said, “Mmmm…who knows? We love Bruce and he’s signed up for the tour now for quite a bit longer.”
Lion doesn’t foresee a second national touring developing anytime soon. The resident Toronto company will start rehearsals in mid-February, making Hairspray a three-production show in North America.