Even before they hit the stage for Lipscomb University Theatre's production of Hairspray, it's pretty clear that cast members Nick Hogan, Tyler Ashley, Shelby Smith, Virginia Lodholtz and Day Day Wells truly are "the nicest kids in town."
Bringing the hit musical to life for Nashville audiences, which will include a large contingent of alumni in town for homecoming (Hairspray runs November 3-6 in Collins Auditorium on the David Lipscomb University campus), the large ensemble of more than 40 actors are hard at work, sharpening their skills, running lines, rehearsing like it's nobody's business and immersing themselves in plenty of 1960s pop culture and nostalgia.
Justin Boccitto , who's made a name for himself in New York City - where he teaches at Broadway Dance Center and is one of the visionaries behind The Group Theatre Too - is director and choreographer of LU Theatre's Hairspray, joined on the creative team by musical director Janet, assistant director Deb Holloway, stage manager Marjorie Wood, set/lighting designer David Hardy and costume designer June Kingsbury. Together, they've assembled a crackerjack cast of exciting young actors who, obviously, are having the time of their lives to bring 1960s Baltimore to Music City USA.
"This show we're doing is going to be fun for the whole family," says Mike Fernandez, chair of the Lipscomb theatre department. "It's flashy and fun, but it has some poignant moments."
Hairspray tells the story of a family that many would see as an outcast, says Boccitto. But the plus-size Turnblad family is also heavy on love and acceptance, and they end up helping Baltimore move into a new age by integrating the Corny Collins Show, a weekly TV dance show.
"The 1960s was a real turn of the tide in the nation. Great things were happening in the country, but we were still dealing with civil rights," Boccitto says.
"Deep down, what John Waters was trying to point out was the power of human connection," he explains. "Human connection is everywhere, no matter what body type we are, what race we are or what religion we are."
In that same spirit, Lipscomb's production of Hairspray was sparked by a partnership between Fernandez and Tenielle Buchanan, Lipscomb's assistant dean of students for intercultural engagement. In an effort to provide more outlets of creativity for students of diversity on campus, the theatre department produced Ragtime in 2010 and Hairspray this fall.
"I think Hairspray is a nice stylistic counterpoint to Ragtime," Fernandez suggests. "Both are about how we relate to each other, but with Hairspray, it's more fun and you leave the theater feeling lighter. This is a musical we feel anyone could bring the whole family to."
So just imagine that it's the 1962-1963 school year and you're about to watch your favorite teens on the hottest televised dance party in town...and get to know LU's "The Nicest Kids in Town"...
Nick Hogan aka Corny Collins Show Council Member Sketcho just imagine that it's the 1962-1963 school year and you're about to watch your favorite teens on the hottest televised dance party in town...and get to know LU's "The Nicest Kids in Town"...
What's your favorite song from the show? "You Can't Stop the Beat."
What's been your most fun experience during the whole Hairspray process? Getting to know the new people in our Theatre Department and spending time with Justin Boccitto.
American Bandstand or Hullabaloo? I would definitely prefer American Bandstand.
Tab or Diet Rite? Tab all the way. Diet Rite is gross!