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arts iu auditorium performances

'Hairspray’ dazzles musical fans in its two-night run beginning Tuesday evening

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Musical fans and students alike filled the IU Auditorium for a show of 1960s show tunes, aerosol hair products and the story of desegregation in a Baltimore television station. in the Broadway musical “Hairspray,” which opened their two-night stay 7:30 p.m., Feb. 6.  

An adaptation of the 1988 film, “Hairspray” had a nearly six-year run on Broadway, 13 Tony Award nominations in 2003 and eight wins. The show takes place in 1960s Baltimore and follows the story of 16-year-old Tracy Turnblad. “Hairspray” examines issues of racial oppression, beauty and body standards through song, dance and comedic repertoire.  

The show opened with the number “Good Morning Baltimore” featuring Tracy Turnblad, played by Caroline Eiseman, in her bedroom. The prologue was followed by “The Nicest Kids in Town,” which introduced Corny Collins and the cast (also known as the council) of “The Corny Collins Show.” 

Tracy Turnblad, a sophomore at Patterson Park High School, is the daughter of a laundress and a joke-shop owner. She wants to be a dancer on “The Corny Collins Show” more than anything. After being pushed away at auditions by the show producer for her appearance, Turnblad befriends students in detention, where she frequents as punishment for her constant hair maintenance during class.  

Turnblad begins dancing with her detention-mate Seaweed, played by Josiah Rogers, the son of Deidre Lang’s character Motormouth Maybelle who is a record producer and host of “Negro Day.” Seaweed is one of the dancers on “Negro Day,” the one day a month the station allows people of color to dance on “The Corny Collins Show.” After displaying her new dance moves at a school dance hosted by Corny Collins himself, Turnblad proves her way onto the show.  

As a dancer on the council, Turnblad represented a look Baltimore had never seen on TV before and the audience loved it. At the finale of her TV premiere, when Collins asks her what she would do first as president, Turnblad says “make every day Negro Day.”  

Turnblad’s first television appearance was just the beginning of her movement to integrate “The Corny Collins Show” and recognize women of all appearances and body types.   

The first act ended with Turnblad, her mother, Motormouth Maybelle and her crew protesting at the live Mother Daughter special episode of “The Corny Collins Show.”  

Arnetta Clark and Barbara McConnell, two Bloomington natives and good friends, were debriefing the first act during intermission. The two women said they have always been big fans of Broadway musicals.  

“This is one we haven’t seen,” Clark said. “I love it. I love all of the dancing and music. I think the cast is great.”   

For McConnell, this was not her first time seeing the performance.  

“I saw it years ago in Indianapolis,” McConnell said. “But this is just really great.”  

Act 2 opened with all the protesters and female dancers behind bars. Everyone was set free on bail, except for Turnblad who was required to stay under the governor of Maryland’s orders. Her love interest Link, played by Skyler Shields, helped her escape that night.  

Once on the run, Turnblad returns to Motormouth Maybelle’s place and after discussion, the group of revolutionaries decides to make another display of protest. This time at the Miss Hairspray pageant, where Turnblad was up against the station producer’s daughter, Amber von Tussle played by Caroline Portner.  

The group’s plan works. Viewers loved the performative bombardment, Turnblad wins Miss Hairspray by a landslide and the show ends with the line, “‘The Corny Collins Show’ is now and forever integrated!”  

IU seniors India Williams, Reagan Maxfield and junior Jessie Schuster were in line to get a photo in front of the “Hairspray” backdrop in the lobby after the show. They said they frequently attend shows at the auditorium.  

“We usually go to every show that comes here,” Williams said. “We’re really big musical fans.” 

This was the first time the women had seen “Hairspray” live.  

“I watched it a lot when I was a kid,” Maxfield said. “I grew up on it. I was really excited for them to come here.”  

When asked what their favorite part of the show was, the women couldn’t pick. They said they enjoyed the entire thing.  

“‘Welcome to the 60s,’” Maxfield said. “I really liked that scene. The set was really good and of course, Tracy is iconic.”

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