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Wootton Production of 'Hairspray' is High Energy with Unstoppable Beat

racy (Corrieanne Stein) makes her debut with the Nicest Kids in Town on the Corny Collins Show. Photos by Joe McCary.
racy (Corrieanne Stein) makes her debut with the Nicest Kids in Town on the Corny Collins Show. Photos by Joe McCary.
Note: Here is a Cappies review of the March 29 performance of "Hairspray" at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville.

What do tap dancing, racism, and whoopee cushions have in common?  These seeming unrelated things all came together on Thomas S. Wootton High School’s stage in a lively rendition of Scott Wittman’s Tony Award winning musical, Hairspray.

Premiering on Broadway on August 15th 2002, this high-energy musical went on to be produced on the West End, Las Vegas, and Australia, as well as garnering one national tour around the United States and two in the United Kingdom. With music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, and written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Hairspray went on to win eight Tony Award, four Laurence Olivier Awards, and nine Drama Desk Awards. However, Hairspray is perhaps most recognized by its 2007 movie starring Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, and Zac Efron.

Hairspray follows Tracy Turnblad (Corrieanne Stein), an ambitious young ingénue who dreams to dance on the Corny Collins Show, but is conflicted when the villainous producer, Velma Von Tussle (Meghan Wright) disagrees with Tracy’s liberal political views. Von Tussle has high aspirations for her daughter Amber (Jackie Kempa), and has no qualms about stepping on (or sleeping with) anyone to climb the ladder of success. The young and charismatic Link Larkin (Wyatt Oring) dances on the Corny Collins Show, and aspires to land a recording contract, but has to choose between his girlfriend Amber, his romantic interest Tracy, and his dreams. Meanwhile, mother, DJ, and record store owner Motormouth Maybelle (Aaliyah Dixon) fight to integrate the Corny Collins Show, despite a wide majority of people telling her she could never succeed.

Stein, who had previously performed in the Broadway production of Billy Elliot, used her astounding voice and sharp comedic timing to bring Tracy Turnblad to life.  Tracy’s sidekick, Penny, was brilliantly played by Julia Franzeres, who brought an adorkable and bubbly energy to the stage. Kempa’s lively portrayal of Amber lived the stereotype of an entitled rich girl, with every giggle to sassy inflection in her voice. Dixon rocked the house with her heart-breakingly powerful rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been,” a power ballad about the struggles of racism.  Oring danced and sang with a classic Elvis-like swagger, smoothly moving his hips through television shows, pageants, and even a jail stint.

The lighting design brought together hues of pink, blue, and yellow, and utilized spinning gobos and spotlights to light the lengthy stage. The soundboard made odd, non-human noises with some ringing and buzzing, but the actors’ beautiful voices still came through. The production also handled the several locations with numerous moving set pieces that rolled on and off stage, bring 1960s Baltimore to life.

From waking up in Baltimore to dancing on television in the Ms. Ultra-Clutch Hairspray Beauty Pageant, Thomas S. Wootton High School’s production of Hairspray had high energy that both reminded us of where we’ve been, where we’re going, and most of all the we can’t stop the beat.

— By Taylor Fountain of Robinson Secondary School

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