Marge Simpson's blue beehive is not among the nearly 40 wigs on hand for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company's final show of the season. But make no mistake, says director Scott RC Levy — taken in total, "it's a lot of hair."
In fact, Levy describes Hairspray as sort of a lot of everything: "bright and buoyant and high-energy." And while the show also may be campy and comic, he points out that it addresses real issues, as its eight 2003 Tony Awards might suggest.
The musical is set in 1962 Baltimore, where racial segregation is commonplace. The show's plump, talented and white heroine, Tracy Turnblad, wins a spot as a dancer on the Corny Collins Show and grows increasingly enamored with what her parents call "race music." What follows is a story — a "sweet, infinitely spirited, bubblegum-flavored confection," as put by Variety magazine — built around her attempts to integrate the local TV show, and fueled by R&B and pop sounds of the day.
Interestingly, Levy says he partly chose this production to challenge some contemporary perceptions of race within the local theater scene. When interviewing for the artistic director position last year, he says, he came across a number of articles and discussions about how seemingly impossible it was to do theatrical productions with actors representing different ethnicities, how "it was so hard to cast. And I said, 'Bullshit — let's do it.'"
As a result, Hairspray's cast of 24 is interracial, inter-generational and even cross-dressing. Throw in an eight-piece live orchestra, the largest band the FAC stage has seen all season, plus 2½ hours of dancing to a fabulous doo-wop score, and you may get a sense of how the original production racked up more than 2,500 performances and seven years on Broadway.
Levy says: "It's probably the most exuberant, most dance-able, most high-energy musical comedy that's come out of Broadway so far in this century."