CCHS Gets Welcomed To The Sixties With Hairspray
BY MATTHEW JOHNSTON
As the lights beam down on center stage, out struts daring, pleasantly plump teenager Tracy Turnblad, with her trademark Jackie O inspired hairstyle, and her slightly dorky, devoted best friend, Penny Pingleton. The song “I Can Hear the Bells” is being performed. The girls, all adorned in a variety of candy colored dresses, and the boys, well dressed in stylized blazers and slacks, sing and dance with sparkling smiles on their faces. Though the actors seem like Broadway stars, they are really Cooper City High School students, performing the undeniably comical musical Hairspray.
Set in the 1960’s, during the Civil Rights Movement, happy-go-lucky Tracy Turnblad, Hairpray’s main character, must battle body image judgment and ethnic boundaries. She attacks these issues by trying to bring about integration in Baltimore through her gig on the popular teen dance show, The Corny Collins Show. Her heroic efforts are essential in bringing about necessary social change. CCHS teacher and director Angela Thomas views Hairspray as an important means of addressing social issues faced by many students at CCHS.
“Because of the musical’s style and underlying message of acceptance of people’s differences, I’m hoping it will help to encourage tolerance within the school through its campy, fun style,” Thomas said.
To put on a play of this magnitude, CCHS needed to work overtime. The first step was acquiring the rights. The play’s rights were made available to schools in May and Thomas made sure CCHS would be able to stage the show. CCHS is the first school in Florida, the second in the country, to perform Hairspray. Once CCHS officially gained the rights to the play, the short time span to implement the production demanded a breakneck pace.
“The schedule is tight and well oiled,” choreographer Jerel Brown said. “Everything has been pre- planned so that we can be prepared for opening night.”
After the initial planning, the show’s auditions quickly began in the CCHS auditorium. An abundance of talented students made their way through the auditorium’s doors, and displayed their singing, acting, and dancing skills before the director and choreographer. The cast of Hairspray was carefully chosen in order to ensure that each cast member fits into what Thomas calls her “puzzle”. She casts students into specific roles based on whether they have recognizable qualities that will capture the essence of the character. Over 100 people will be seen on stage between the main stars and the equally as important ensemble cast.
“The casting was difficult because Thomas wants everyone to have an on-stage experience,” Brown said. “I end up having to choreograph many dances with several children who are at different levels of dance ability.”
Playgoers are often led to believe that a shows’ success is solely due to the actors’ performances while onstage, when in fact what happens behind the scenes is just as vital. The crew’s work determines whether the production will look engaging and impressive to those who view the play. Audio, lighting and scenic elements are needed for the play to proceed onward and in an appealing fashion.
The crew also works on designing costumes, makeup, and sets that match the 1960s era in order for the audience to gain a satisfying, authentic portrayal of the time period. Each aspect is thought out in advance, so that everything is properly taken care of before the crucial opening night.
“People often don’t realize how much work my team and I put into planning and executing which different techniques we will be using on main characters and the ensemble,” senior and head of make-up Sophie Sutker said.
As Hairspray concludes and the curtains are drawn closed, the audience erupts with a standing ovation. The cast and crew take pride in knowing that all of their efforts were worthwhile. Not only was a fabulous play performed, it reminded audiences that everyone should be treated equally no matter who they are. The Broadway classic has set the bar for the CCHS drama department and will continue to be a milestone in high school theater production.
Hairspray is being performed in the CCHS auditorium September 30th, October 1st, 7th, and 8th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.