BISFA senior cast members say there's a lesson to be learned from 'Hairspray'
The world keeps turning ‘round and ‘round as students from Barbara Ingram School for the Arts stage the Baltimore-based musical “Hairspray.”
The show opens Friday, April 13, and runs two weekends through Sunday, April 22, at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown.
“Hairspray” follows the adventures of plus-sized Tracy Turnblad who wants to dance on the “Corny Collins Show” against the backdrop of 1962 civil rights-era Baltimore.
Playing Tracy is senior Krissie Neiman of Boonsboro.
“I love her a lot because she’s easy to love,” she said. “She’s so confident ... and she shows that she doesn’t care what she looks like and owns it. She makes people laugh. It’s easy and fun to act, she’s a fun character.”
For the character, Krissie said she had to add some padding to fill out Tracy’s costume.
“It made me feel good about myself. I was scared that I didn’t need padding,” she said. “It’s a bigger girl and I love it. You see a bigger difference between Tracy’s character and everyone else’s. It’s different from a character I’ve always played because I’ve always played a sassy character.”
Krissie, who will be studying with the Young Americans program after graduation, said the message of acceptance is such a part of the show.
“The real message is everyone should be loved, no matter how big you are, what color your skin is,” she said. “It’s just about loving everyone for being different. It’s a big message. It’s a more adult message, but I feel like at any age it’s important to know the message. Any age, any audience will love the show.”
Playing her mother Edna is fellow senior Liam Clark, 18, of Hagerstown.
Liam also has to wear padding, along with some high-heel shoes to slip into character. And of all the things that are challenges with the show, Liam admitted it’s the fat suit that takes the most getting used to.
“I think the hardest thing is how hot this is because for so long I’ve been practicing without a fat suit on. So once I put this on and doing the choreography and blocking for the show,” he said, noting it adds another 10 pounds.
Liam, who has been accepted into the American Musical and Dramatic Academy that splits his time in New York and LA, said he loves Edna because she’s so quirky.
“She’s a timid woman that had a dream of being a fashion icon kind of woman, but she’s trapped in this little apartment in Baltimore in the ’60s,” he said. “She finally gets to live her dream at the end of the show. It’s beautiful.’
Playing Tracy’s love interest Link Larkin is senior Jordan Peiffer, 17, of Hagerstown.
What Jordan likes about Link is that he’s still growing up.
“He’s a not a solid person yet,” he said. “He plays this macho guy, but he doesn’t know who he is. He kind of discovers that throughout the musical.”
Jordan, who hasn’t committed to his college yet to study audio and music production, said he also likes the relationship between Link and Tracy because it’s so unexpected, but also so right.
“No one would expect them to be together. Link was with someone at the beginning you would imagine him to be with and at the beginning of the musical as it goes along, he falls in love with Tracy,” he said. “You wouldn’t expect it. I think it really shows the meaning of the musical to accept everyone. Even this guy everyone wants can be with Tracy, who was bullied.”
The character of Penny, who is Tracy’s best friend, is played by seniors Kyra Baker, 18, and Amanda Askin, 17, both of Hagerstown, on alternative nights.
“I think it’s really awesome. It’s cool to have your own part, but when you get to geek out over a scene that’s really funny or a little awkward with someone else, it helps,” Kyra said. “Also to review your parts and things like that and helps for a more confident character and I really appreciate that because I’m not a musical theater major, so that helps.”
Kyra is a vocal major at BISFA plans to attend Roanoke (Va.) College as an undecided major in the fall.
She said what she loves about the show is the message.
“‘Hairspray’ is a really good show to show people that it’s OK to be you and rock it out,” she said.
Amanda said she always loved Penny “because she’s kind of stupid, and I like to be stupid on stage because it’s fun.”
This fall, Amanda plans to attend Frostburg State University to study mass communications. She said the message of “Hairspray” is something everyone should hear.
“I really the love the overall theme of the show, it’s just really about acceptance and fighting for what you believe in. I think that’s really important especially in times like this,” she said. “It’s a good message to get out.”
Top photo: From left, Jordan Peiffer as Link Larkin, Krissie Neiman as Tracy Turnblad, Liam Clark as Edna Turnblad and Jared Shay as Wilburn Turnblad star in Barbara Ingram School for the Arts’ production of “Hairspray.” (Photo by Crystal Schelle)