The ensemble cast of "Hairspray": "It's such a
n show the way its done, and its about something" says Joshua Bergasse, an Oak Park native who is one of the show's understudies.
Buzz builds as "Hairspray" becomes Broadway's most-talked about new musical.
ALICE BURDICK SCHWEIGER
Special to the Jewish News
11111 ake way for back-combs
and beehives — the
word from New York
theater mavens is that
the next Broadway blockbuster with
legs will be the 1960s spoof Hairspray.
Based on John Waters' 1988 film of
the same name, this lively, energetic
show opened Aug. 15 at the Neil Simon
Theatre. And it's already considered the
hottest musical since The Producers.
Wrote Michael Feingold of the
Village Voice, 'At Hairspray, everyone
involved seems to be doing something
they love, and they wouldn't mind if
you loved it too; the whole thing is a
conspiracy to have fun."
At Newsweek, reviewer Marc Peyser
enthused, "John Waters' camp classic
about teen angst is now a big, beauti-
ful bouffant of a musical."
"The long-term prospects for Hairspray
are enormous and completely comparable
to The Producers," says Jim Stern, who is
one of the producers of both shows.
"But Hairspray is a hit first and fore-
most because it is a terrific show.
Along with that, the show is about joy
and the need for that in our lives. It's
[also] a wonderful political message in
these troubling times."
Stern, a University of Michigan
graduate, says he "didn't anticipate the
craziness" that surrounded Hairspray
or The Producers, for that matter.
"One can produce for 50 years on
Broadway without experiencing hits
like these," says Stern, whose wife,
Kathryn Glasgow, is from West
Bloomfield. "To hope for it and
depend on it would be a prescription
for disappointment, but I am sure glad
it's come. And twice in a row!"
Part of the formula for Hairspray's suc-
cess is the casting. Marissa Jaret Winokur
plays the plump arid perky Tracy
Turnblad, and Harvey Fierstein, in drag,
is her lovable mother Edna Turnblad.
The score is written by Marc Shaiman,
who also co-wrote the lyrics with Scott
Wittman. Together they have created
catchy melodies and pop hits that leave
the audience dancing in the aisles.
It's 1962 in Baltimore. The 1950s are
over and the times are a-changing.
Tracy has a dream — to dance on
the local American Bandstand-style
TV program The Corny Collins Show.
But since fat is not what the viewing
audience expects'to see on the tube:
Edna has reservations about her
daughter pursuing her dream. Tracy's
father (Dick Latessa), however,
encourages his daughter to go for it.
Despite the Collins show's prima
donna, Amber, and her bigoted stage
mother, Tracy makes her TV debut
and is automatically embraced by the
audience as well as by Amber's beau
and heartthrob, Link.
As the newest teen celebrity, Tracy
has a plan — to integrate the all-white
show, which has up until then barred
all blacks from the set except for once-
a-month "Negro Night."
"It's such a fun show the way it's
done, and it's about something," says
Joshua Bergasse, an Oak Park native
and graduate of Berkley High School
who is one of the show's understudies.
"It's about integration, how every-
one can be accepted, and it deals with
issues that previously we weren't able
to laugh at.
Bergasse, whose mother, Annette
Bergasse, runs the Annette and
Company School of Dance in
Farmington Hills, is covering for
members of the ensemble cast.
"I cover for seven men and I have to
know all their lines and musical steps.
Since I have been dancing for a long
time, I feel they trust me as someone
who can cover for a lot of different
people," he says.
Bergasse learned to dance at his moth-
er's studio and goes back to the studio to
teach classes when he has the time.
Is he surprised by all the hype?
"Not at all," he says. "We believed
[in] what we were doing. The audi-
ence's reaction is so amazing, some-
times it feels like we are at a rock con-
cert with the people's enthusiasm."
Come next spring, when the Tony
nominations are announced, it won't
be surprising if Winokur, Fierstein and
Shaiman — all Jewish — are among
the honored contenders.
Winokur, who made her Broadway
BOUFFANT BABY on page 83