‘Extra’-hold on! It’s ‘Hairspray’ in New Britain

By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR
Get out your combs and brushes, some extra hold hairspray, brush up your dances moves, and prepare to enjoy a little “Hairspray” this weekend and next.
Connecticut Theatre Company continues its performances of the stage musical based on the cinematic satire, “Hairspray” from filmmaker John Waters.
The story, told against the backdrop of the segregated Baltimore of the early 1960s, follows the adventures of Tracy Turnblad, a “pleasantly plump teen” who strikes a blow for diversity—physical and racial—by winning a featured slot on a popular dance show.
Johanna Regan of Killingworth handles the role of Tracy Turnblad. “Tracey is a fun role… The character is a sophomore in high school, and she starts, basically, a revolution. She’s amazing, challenging, and so dynamic. I’m 24 and I haven’t done half as much as she does in the course of this one show. She’s incredible.”
Rachel Dufresne of Southington, who plays Amber, Tracy’s nemesis and the lead dancer on “The Corny Collins Show” (the dance program at the center of the story), said what she likes about Tracy is “that’s she’s so determined to get what she wants and she never gives up.”
Rachel Huff of Southington, who handles the role of Little Inez, said, “I like Tracy because even though she keeps getting shot down because of her weight, she keeps coming back up. (She basically says) ‘I just want to dance on TV. I just want to be me.’”
Huff said she likes the story of “Hairspray” because “it’s all about how people are different and how they get to realize they’re important too and they find their place (in the world).”
Dufresne also likes the time period of “Hairspray,” the 1960s. She liked that in those days “you don’t have to worry about technology… you just get to have fun, and dance on shows.”
After the riots in Baltimore earlier this year stemming from racial unrest, the performance of “Hairspray” has become all the more relevant—since the musical is based on racial unrest in that Maryland city in the early 1960s.
“The timing of us putting it on… (is) more relevant than we would have figured,” said Regan. “You would imagine the issues they go through in the 1960s, that by the 2000s, we’d be over it. But we’re not… The message we will bring to the audience is timeless.”
Steffon Sampson of Southington, who is part of the ensemble, said, “I think the show really could set a reminder. There was a time when times were rough, segregation was still a thing, and when you look at what’s happening now, you can look back to this and use it as a refresher to see how (times used to be).”
Sampson said he appreciates how “Hairspray’s” creator John Waters approached the story by taking a serious topic and using humor and music to sell his message about the importance of racial equality and the acceptance of diversity.
“Any kind of serious message (told with humor is)… not as harsh to the ear. It’s more appealing. So you can sit back and enjoy the show and receive the message,” said Sampson.
“I think that’s one of the most effective ways to tackle serious issues is to use humor because it gets the message across better,” said Regan. “If it’s just serious, it feels as if you’re beating it into the audience. But make it a little bit lighter, they’re laughing, but later, they will think about it.”
“It’s pretty good that (Waters) did it in this way because it’s such a heavy topic,” said Huff.
Part of the appeal of “Hairspray,” besides the story, is the music, said the cast.
“The music is so much fun,” said Regan. “I have done countless musicals… I’ve never done a show quite like this. There are tunes, the audience will leave singing. And that’s what you want…”
Huff said, “I like how (the music’s) really upbeat. And it’s catchy. It’s really fun. And you can make each song your own.”
For audiences looking to come out to the show, Dufresne promised, “We’re going to put on a great show.”
Huff said, “Everyone is so talented… If they like musicals, they’ll really like this one a lot.”
Connecticut Theatre Company performs “Hairspray” until May 31 at The Repertory Theatre, 23 Norden St., New Britain. Tickets are general admission and are $25 for adults and $23 for seniors. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
 Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.connecticuttheatrecompany.org or bought at the door the night of the performance. 

PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN

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