The play is not only for entertainment, but it teaches students about history, perseverance and having the courage to be authentic, said Kathy King, a math teacher at Reed who directs the play.
“The music is great, the plot is funny and it’s meaningful,” King said at the production’s first dress rehearsal on Monday afternoon. “It’s about integration in the 1960s, so there is a history lesson for the kids to learn about, too.”
Based on the 1988 John Waters film, the musical follows young, “pleasantly plump” heroine Tracy Turnblad, who struggles to overcome the trials of segregated Baltimore in 1962.
Tracy is ecstatic when she learns that one of the dancers in the local “American Bandstand”-style show, “The Corny Collins Show,” is leaving and auditions are being held for a replacement.
Rejected by the show because of her girth, Tracy overcomes the reclusive hesitation of her mother, Edna Turnblad, to struggle for a dance spot in the show, despite the scheming of the show’s star dancer, Amber Von Tussle.
Along the way Tracy tackles other challenges in helping Seaweed J. Stubbs and Little Inez integrate “The Corny Collins Show,” which only allows African Americans on the show during monthly “Negro Days.”
Keeping with the tradition of the original film and the 2007 remake starring John Travolta, the role of Edna is played in drag by Quinn Langton.
“I heard they were doing ‘Hairspray’ and I’ve always loved John Travolta, so I said ‘I want to be John Travolta’,” said Quinn, an 18-year-old senior at Reed. “I think it’s kind of a funny role for me to play.”
Learning to play a woman was a challenge, Quinn said, because he had to put extra effort into learning how to walk in heels and to adopt more feminine mannerisms.
Some of the Reed students in the production have made acting into more than a school activity and plan to continue acting after high school.
“I’m going to (Brigham Young University) to study music, dance and theater,” said Carley Porter, a 17-year-old senior and an honorary dance captain for the play. “Ms. King has been putting on these plays for three or four years and (musical director and choral teacher) Mr. Lorentzen is the main reason why I got so in to acting and performing. He’s dedicated a lot in to teaching us how to do good work.”
Students are also being taught real-life work skills throughout this and other productions, King said.
“We were in intermezzo, so we’ve all sung before,” said Chelsie Morgan, 17-year-old senior from Sparks who plays one of the Saltines, a fictional musical group in the play. “We’ve learned in this experience that a lot of hard work pays off in the end. We got to see that those people who didn’t show up didn’t get the good parts. It was a lesson.”
Hairspray will be opening at the Reed High School theater today at 7 p.m. with more performances at 7 p.m. on April 27, 28, 29, 30 and a matinee at 2 p.m. on April 30.
Ticket prices are $10 to $12, depending on seating. Tickets are available at the door, or at www.showtix4u.com. For more information, call 353-5700.