Truth be told, it’s a pretty exciting time to be a theater-goer in Tyler. We have seen the exciting progression of the thriving arts scene in East Texas, particularly in the last couple of years. Enter stage right “Hairspray: The Musical” at Tyler Civic Theatre.
The contemporary and progressive whiz-bang of a show takes the best elements of the classic Broadway musical and flips it on its ear.
I have the privilege of co-directing the production — with Justin Purser — and acting in it as well. It’s my second directing effort after “Footloose: The Musical,” which ran at the Tyler Civic Theatre last summer.
Everything about this show is big. Bigger-than-life characters, big songs, big set pieces, big laughs, big conflicts, and most importantly big heart.
The story centers around Tracy Turnblad, a full-figured teenage girl who dreams of dancing on the Corny Collins Show (think Dick Clark and “American Bandstand”) and winning the affections of a teenage Elvis-like heartthrob, Link Larkin.
But that’s not the whole story. Race relations and the subject of integration in early 1960s’ Baltimore casts an undertone that change is happening, and soon. The doe-eyed optimism of Tracy leads the charge of integrating the Corny Collins show with African-American singers and dancers.
Like the truest of underdogs, you can’t help but root for Tracy. Her struggle, as well as the struggles for many characters in “Hairspray” is the mainstream struggle for acceptance and tolerance.
The show also explores the subjects of inner beauty and the content of one’s character. As many can attest, the conflicts and inspiring themes this show addresses are still so applicable today.
Putting on a production of this nature is similar to running a marathon. It literally takes a village to put this together. Having a long history of being involved in the Tyler theater scene, this certainly is one of the most ambitious productions I’ve ever taken part in but has also been one of the most rewarding.
It’s almost impossible, and not fair for me, to single out an individual or two in this production who “steal the show” because, honestly, they all do. The 43 singers/actors/dancers have talent that must be seen to believe.
East Texas get ready, “Hairspray The Musical” is swinging for the fences.