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5 Things to Know About 'Hairspray,' Opening Tonight at USF

The curtain goes up tonight on the University of South Florida School of Theatre and Dance's production of the musical Hairspray. Here are five things to know about the show.

1. While the show from both John Waters' original 1988 film and the 2003 Tony Award-winning musical (along with the 2007 Hollywood adaptation), director/choreographer Andy Frye (who previously directed USF's productions of Rocky Horror Show and Hair) says USF's version is something all its own.

“We’re trying to use the original John Waters movie as inspiration. It’s a little darker and quirkier, which this new version is as well, but it’s a little ‘bubble gum’ and ‘cotton candy,’ and everything just like fun, fun, fun, and we just wanted to bring a darker side so we have somewhere to grow.”


2. If you're a fan of the character Edna Turnblad, you're not alone--so is Ryan Bernier, the USF sophomore playing her. It's a part played in the musical version by Harvey Fierstein (on stage) and John Travolta (on film), but probably made most famous by the actor in the original movie, drag queen Divine. Bernier says that performance made a huge difference in his life.

“I was 4 and I saw Hairspray and I told my mom that I wanted to be the mom. This is a part that’s been 15 years coming, and I’m so excited to have an opportunity to do this.”

3. While the rest of the cast has to dance and sing while wearing authentic 60's-style clothes, right down to beehive wigs, Bernier and Raechelle Egan, who stars as Tracy Turnblad, will wear padded suits that turn them into much larger characters. Add in platform shoes, and at times, Bernier will stand 7 1/2 feet tall.
“The dances are incredibly challenging, they’re really demanding, doing them without heels is a challenge," said Bernier. "Then adding heels is really difficult, but it’s a challenge I’m up for.”

4. Describing Tracy, who dreams of dancing on a TV dance program, The Corny Collins Show, Egan says it's all about bringing the right amount of energy to the part.

"She dances all the time," said Egan. "Then you're also singing, so keeping up stamina is difficult and keeping up being lovable as Tracy, as well as pushing through the tiredness and still keeping that drive has probably been the most challenging but also the most exciting (part)."

5. And speaking of the clothes, costume designer Marilyn Bertch and her team of students are designing more than 100 original outfits for the show.

"The excitement of seeing it (a costume) from a picture, a little pencil sketch, into seeing become dimensional is not only exciting for me as the designer," said Bertch, "but it's exciting for the students to see this is art taking shape."


Hairspray runs October 11-13 and 17-20 at 8 p.m., and October 14-21 at 3 p.m. in Theatre 1 on the USF Tampa Campus. Tickets are $15 for students and seniors, $20 general admission. You can get more information through the USF Box Office or by calling 813-974-2323.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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