PlayHouse Players Take the Stage With 'Hairspray'
"Hairspray," the original award-winning show that delighted Broadway audiences for more than 2,500 performances, is being re-created in the Sandhills on the weekend of Feb. 1-3 by The PlayHouse Players at Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College.
Reviewers had high praise for the original production, saying "this sweet, infinitely spirited, -bubblegum-flavored confection ... more than lives up to its promise," and another added, "Stocked with canny, deliriously tuneful songs, 'Hairspray' ... succeeds in -recreating the pleasures of the old-fashioned musical comedy."
The 31-member cast is made up of an enthusiastic group of students from middle and high schools throughout Moore County, -augmented by several home-schooled students, forming a diverse but cohesive assembly with a common love of theater.
They are part of The PlayHouse Players, a division of Taylor Dance Company, which offers theater workshops to youth from -pre-school to high school in three -separate groups.
The director for PlayHouse Players is Kimberly Fielder-Jones, currently an early childhood instructor at Sandhills Community College. A native of Moore County, her interest in theater was -developed by taking classes with Judy Osborne, at Union Pines High School, and she later attended Valdosta State University as a -theater major. She has performed professionally in Georgia and on local stages, and now shares her fascination with theater with Moore County youth.
Through her connections at the college, Fielder-Jones arranged for the Players to perform at Owens Auditorium.
In addition, the cosmetology department at the college has become a collaborator for the show with cosmetology students -providing all the hairstyling and makeup for the entire cast of "Hairspray."
The age range of the cast is from 11 to 18. Although this is a wide span, Fielder-Jones says that they get along well together, looking out for each other, and with the younger members of the group learning from the older ones.
Auditions were held in November to cast the show, and Fielder-Jones made sure that everyone had a part.
The theater workshops in which the group is involved include singing, dancing and -acting techniques, as well as technical -backstage aspects, such as putting together a set and working on lights.
Fielder-Jones mentions that Doug Fry, who teaches at the STARS charter school, is set designer for The Players and also works with the students on the backstage workshops.
Teila Vochatzer, who heads the cast of "Hairspray" as the teenager Tracy Turnblad, has had backstage and on-stage experience in PlayHouse Players shows. A sophomore at Union Pines High School, where she is active in the drama department, she has a long-term ambition to have a career in stage management or directing.
"Hairspray" is set in the 1960s, and the plot revolves around Tracy's appearance on a local TV dance program. Can she win the love of the heartthrob Link Larkin and -integrate the television show? With her striking stage mother by her side, Tracy and her friends demonstrate they are proud to be who they are.
The part of the heartthrob crooner Link Larkin is brought to life by Britton Buchanan, who, Fielder-Jones says, is a -natural crooner, and the smooth-talking teen known as Seaweed is played by Mike Morrisey. At home on stage singing, acting and dancing, Morrisey also plays piano, drums, bass and organ. He plans to further his career by attending Berkley College of Music in Boston after graduating from high school.
The part of Tracy's mother has traditionally been played by a male, and so John Hicks, a 6'8" basketball player from Union Pines, has been cast as Edna. Although he is a novice in theater arts, he loves to sing and dance, and he is having fun with the part, but he admits to being challenged by having to learn lines.
Tracy's father is played by Suz Wagner, and according to Kimberly Jones, the reverse gender roles of the father and -mother stress the importance of acceptance, which is an underlying theme of the show.
The choreographer for "Hairspray" is Jeremy Huggins, a graduate of University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and the executive director overseeing The PlayHouse Players entire program for Taylor Dance is Rita Taylor, who has -directed scores of musical productions during her career.
She is pleased that the production of "Hairspray" will be -performed at Sandhills Community College, since it is the first time the Players has performed in a theater-like venue. Their previous performances have been staged in -elementary school -auditoriums.
"With this large a cast, we wanted to give our -students the opportunity to perform on a regular stage, with plenty of room for dancers to execute the movements of the various musical numbers," she says.
The PlayHouse Players will perform "Hairspray" Friday, Feb. 1, and Saturday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, and Sunday, Feb. 3.
Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $7 for -students and children, and $6 per person for groups of 10 or more.
Tickets are available at the door.
"The show has a unique appeal, focusing on -relationships between youth and older adults and on the themes of integration and acceptance," says Rita Taylor. "The music and the energy are -exhilarating, and it's a fun show that can be enjoyed by the whole family."
Contact Mary Elle Hunter at email@example.com.
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