Hairspray ‘holds’ its own in the new Tower Theater

The beat at the new Liberty Tower Theater can’t be stopped in its debut production “Hairspray.” The play, starring senior Sarah Seaman as the lead, follows plus-sized heroine Tracy Turnblad as she obsesses over heartthrob Link Larkin, played by junior Caleb Hughes. She fights for integration in turbulent 1960s Baltimore and climbs her way to stardom on the hit teen TV series “The Corny Collins Show.”

The story starts with an average day in Tracy’s life — waking up, going to school, hanging out with her best friend Penny Pingleton, getting in trouble for the size of her voluminously teased hair and drooling over “The Corny Collins Show.” Tracy skips school to audition as a dancer on the show and is turned down by the show’s racist producer Velma Von Tussle, the mother of Larkin’s girlfriend and Tracy’s nemesis Amber.

The fictitious "Corny Collins Show" was based on an actual live-TV dance series based in Baltimore, "The Buddy Deane Show." The TV show featured teenagers from local high schools showing off the hippest and most popular dance moves of the 1960s.

Tracy lands in detention for skipping school and meets Seaweed, son of famous deejay Motormouth Maybelle, and she also meets other black students, who teach her a few dance moves. She uses the moves to introduce herself to Corny Collins himself. He hires her on the spot, leading her to stardom, a plus-size modeling gig and even bigger hair. Her appearance on the show causes controversy as she battles to integrate “The Corny Collins Show,” which leads to love, jail time and explosive song and dance numbers.

The show also features sophomore Taamu Wuuya as Seaweed, senior Ronald Brady as Corny Collins and senior Kathryn Williams as Penny Pingleton. Being a part of the cast in the play’s opening production is a big event for theater students.

“As an actor, you rarely get to be part of an opening of a brand new theater because it happens every 30 plus years,” Director Linda Nell Cooper said. “We could not have done this in the Lloyd Auditorium. Because of the new theater that we are able to (present Hairspray) so we did not have to adjust the play at all.”

Liberty is the first college in Virginia to perform Hairspray, primarily because of the versatility of the new theater.

“Not only is it an honor to have a supporting lead in the brand new theater, but it has been such an incredible journey acting in the Lloyd Theater for the past three years to presently acting in the Tower Theater,” Brady said. “It has been surreal to see this transformation because it seems just yesterday that it was announced in convocation. This is also the first time we used top-notch equipment such as a fly loft. It has opened my eyes wider than ever.”

Hairspray opened Sept. 24 and runs until Oct. 9. An additional showing has been added on Thursday, Oct. 7, all other showings are sold out. Tickets are on sale for $7 for students, $10 for faculty and staff and $12 for general admission. See the Liberty Theatre Arts website for more information.

EDWARDS is the feature editor.

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