More than 70 students have been working for months to pull together the drama club’s latest high school musical, Hairspray, and tonight they get to show the region their best.
The cast will take to the 's stage tonight for the first of four shows this weekend.
This particular show has been on Director Lenore Grunko’s to-do list for many years. She says she jumped at the chance to direct the production when the rights to the show became available in May 2010.
“I’ve been dying to do Hairspray forever,” Grunko said.
The musical’s plot follows a plump Maryland teenager, Tracy Turnblad, who dreams of dancing on her favorite TV show, The Corny Collins Show. Tracy wins a role, after facing discrimination over her weight.
Tracy's best friend Penny Pingleton has her own problems when she creates a rift with her mother by beginning a relationship with a black dancer from the show. Tracy later leads a protest to make the show integrated, since black performers were only allowed in the show on designated days.
The musical is set in 1962 and is full of fun music and fashion, which Grunko says entertains the students and provides a chance for her to relive her youth.
“I was 12 and 13 then, all those dances were mine, all those fashions were mine, at that time of emergence,” Grunko said.
Grunko said that a lot of the show’s appeal comes from the lively music and dance numbers. Although she usually choreographs all the dances herself, she’s enlisted the help of talented University of Connecticut student Rebecca Smith to lighten the load. The show features more than 20 to 25 dance numbers.
“The kid’s just love to dance,” Grunko said, adding that she doesn’t like the students to go more than two years without a dance-heavy show.
With so much work and rehearsing to do, the extreme winter weather has certainly stressed the E.O. Smith Drama Club, but the cast and crew have pulled together.
“We’re in good shape,” drama member Sarah Jensen said as a large group of students gathered before rehearsal.
The students seem to appreciate Grunko’s positive attitude.
“She [Grunko] was joking, ‘I bet they don’t do musicals in Alaska',” Jensen said.
Behind all the fun costumes and lively dance scenes, Grunko and the students appreciate the important message of integration that is embedded in the show.
Sophomore Maye Henning, who is using her background in sewing and fashion to help alter costumes, said that integration, even in regards to race, is still relevant to modern audiences.
“I think integration is something people should still be aware of,” Henning said.
Lena Forman, playing the lead of Tracy Turnblad, said she was ecstatic when she found out that the school was putting on Hairspray because she has loved the show ever since she saw it on Broadway. She said that she appreciates the fun and the message.
“It deals with being different,” Forman said, “No matter what the context, it’s still relevant.”
Grunko agrees that the show features the struggles of those “on the margins of society.” Beyond the clear issue of racial discrimination, Tracy and her mother Edna face prejudice against their weight. The show also gives a covert nod to bending gender norms as the role of Edna is traditionally played by a man.
Despite these heavy topics, the E.O. Smith students embodied the show’s joy, fun and love at during a sneak preview of the show. It’s hard to stay too serious when costumers are working on Edna’s fat suit, which transforms the tall and slender Allan Martin who plays the role.
“It gives him 69 inch hips,” Grunko said, laughing. Soon enough, audiences will be joining her.
The E.O. Smith Drama Club's production of Hairspray runs Feb. 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 12 and 13 at 1:30 p.m. General admission is $9 and $7 for seniors and students. For ticket and weather-related information, call 860-429-3437 or email DEdominique409@aol.com.