At the first cast meeting to read through and sing through the musical “Hairspray,” a couple of things were said that really caught my attention and have stuck with me through these past weeks of rehearsals.
The first was when our stage manager asked to see a show of hands of Weathervane first- timers and mine was one of several that went up. “Welcome to the family!” he said. It has turned out to be a very welcoming family indeed. It’s been a long time since I have been in a theatre production. In fact, longer than the ages of most of the young people in the cast! I was thrilled to be offered the role of Velma, and I’m not afraid of hard work, but if the truth be told, there was a moment early on when I came home from rehearsal and thought, “What in the world have I gotten myself into now?”
As I have navigated my way through the theatre world again and the rehearsal process progresses, my new family at Weathervane has been very supportive and helpful. When I’m not on stage, I have learned so much from sitting and watching my cast mates work. In particular the star of our show, Sarah Jane Toy, who is in the role of Tracy Turnblad. She is a true triple threat and brings her A-game to every rehearsal, always giving 110 percent. She inspires me to try and do the same.
The young people in the cast who are singing and dancing their way through our story are amazing as well. They learn the steps so quickly, and the fabulous Mary Rohrer, in the role of Shelly, is ever patient to help out this “new kid” (new old-timer?) with extra dance rehearsals. If you want to see beauty and grace in motion, you will find it in the form of Larry Sims, who plays Duane, our class clown in the show. Yes, I have gained a whole new appreciation for hoofers and I’ve acquired a whole new stockpile of Tylenol, Advil, Epsom salts and Biofreeze.
The other statement I found so memorable came from our Director Marissa Leenaarts, who said on that first day that we had an important story to share with Akron. She’s right and it seems to me we need this reminder now more than ever.
“Hairspray” is about love and acceptance, of oneself and of others. The powerhouse Sydney Thomas, as Motormouth Maybelle, will spell it all out and give you chills at the same time as she sings the songs containing these timeless and timely messages.
My character, Velma, is the villain in our story and not surprisingly she has passed on her shallow value system and misguided perceptions of beauty and success onto her daughter, Amber (played by the talented Sarah Craven). Velma is pretty pathetic as her self-worth and validation come only from external sources, namely a beauty pageant crown. While Tracy wonders why we can’t all dance together, Velma works hard to keep her show and the kids in it just the way they are – segregated.
Do Velma and Amber ever come around? Well, you’ll just have to come visit me and my family at Weathervane and see our show to find out. Come as you are, there is no dress code, but I would suggest that you do wear your dancing shoes!
“Hairspray” runs June 8 through July 2, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $22 to $26 and are available by calling (330) 836-2626 or going to www.weathervaneplayhouse.com.