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Johnson makes 'Hairspray' sing


Photo
photo courtesy of chris bennion
Tracy Turnblad stars in "Hairspray," a musical based on the John Waters movie starring Ricki Lake. Expect even more singing and dancing as it runs at Centennial Hall.
By Lauren Hillery
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 21, 2004
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If musicals were one large singing and dancing family, one might call "Hairspray" the black sheep. With a chubby teenage girl as the lead and topics like racism and segregation during the 1960s, "Hairspray" goes where few musicals venture.

For Troy Britton Johnson, the part of Corny Collins seemed perfectly tailored to him.

Corny Collins is the host of an American Bandstand-type show, on which Tracy Turnblad, played by Keala Settle, longs to appear. Once Turnblad accomplishes her dream and receives a bit of fame, she fights to desegregate the show, which only allows black kids to dance on the show one day of the week.

If you go...

"Hairspray"
Runs tonight through Nov. 6.
Centennial Hall
$14.50 - $72.00
For tickets call 520-621-3341

The Collins character was actually loosely based on Buddy Keane, who hosted a similar type show in Baltimore. John Waters, writer and director of the movie "Hairspray," danced on his show in the 60s.

"I saw the show in New York as a preview and sometimes you just see a part and you think 'Wow, that would be a great part for me,'" Johnson said.

Johnson believes this show is more than just your average musical. It addresses controversial issues pertinent to the 1960s that are, unfortunately, still present today.

"It deals with a lot of issues, integration, tolerance, self-esteem. It deals with a lot of different things that aren't preached to you, because the show is so fun and so over the top, but there's a lot of great messages," Johnson said.

Besides the racy themes and colorful sets, "Hairspray" is also a complex technical show.

The backdrop on stage is like a huge Lite Brite that changes colors with scenes. Because of the immensity of "Hairspray's technical aspects, the show travels with 10 buses and about 65 crewmembers, and it picks up local crewmembers in each city.

"For the 20-some people on stage, there's probably about 100 people backstage that are making it all work," Johnson said.

For the John Waters fans out there, the play stays pretty true to the movie, but because the play has more time, the plot is more elaborate.

The one major difference is the use of music to tell the story.

"It uses music to help tell the story. The music is all rock 'n' roll, 60s-inspired type of music. Along with telling the story, it adds a flavor and feeling of the era that they were in," Johnson said.

The show includes upbeat singing, dancing and comedy, and the cast even invites the audience to dance in the aisles at the end.

"It's really a high energy show. It's one of the shows that once it starts it kind of sweeps you along with it. It sweeps us just as it sweeps the audience. And you sort of give over to it, no matter how tired you are."



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