You Can’t Stop the Beat: Paramount Live! Presents Hairspray

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By Kyle Poluyko

This December, Lawrence Badanai and Paramount Live! bring the Sir Laurence Olivier and 2003 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical extravaganza, Hairspray, to the stage of the Paramount Theatre. Adapted into a 2007 blockbuster motion picture musical, Hairspray and its cast of “The Nicest Kids In Town” has delighted theatre and cinema audiences across the globe with its dance, rhythm and soul music, and electrifying social commentary on the injustices in 1960s American society.

In 1962 Baltimore, Maryland – a racially tense time in American history – plump and bubbly teenager Tracy Turnblad dreams of appearing on the local dance television program The Corny Collins Show. With the support of her best friend Penny Pingleton, Tracy wins a coveted spot on the popular broadcast. Tracy becomes an instant celebrity, meeting a diverse array of both charming and menacing characters. Corny Collins, the young and attractive host and producer of the show, encourages Tracy’s liberal views, while the ridiculous Velma Von Tussle, determined to further her daughter, Amber’s – the reigning Teen Queen – career with attempts to sabotage both Tracy and Corny.

Tracy herself unflinchingly embarks on a campaign to racially integrate the show, and catching the eye of heartthrob, Link Larkin, a young man absent of racial bias. Tracy also strives to highlight and improve racial struggles in the United States in the sixties, though always with an eye towards capturing the attention of Larkin. Meanwhile, Tracy’s mother objects to her daughter’s appearance on national television out of fear that her daughter’s weight will make her the subject of ridicule.

Director Lawrence Badanai has assembled a diverse and talented array of over 25 young performers. He has great praise for the youthful cast, saying “while the musical is a big, happy song- filled show, the actors address issues of racism, discrimination, bullying and body image topics they may not have encountered before.” Local stage veteran Spencer Hari steps into the cameo role of Tracy’s mother, Edna, a long-standing tradition of gender bending casting, and Badanai says Hari’s role in the company in the role and as a mentor to younger cast members has been invaluable. “He (Hari) has been an asset to their theatre arts development by working directly as a cast mate and mentor to the rest of the Hairspray cast.”

Hairspray is on stage on December 12, 13 and 14 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children and can be purchased in advance at the Paramount Theatre. For more information call 285-3324 or visit live.paramounttheatre.ca.