The Joliet Drama Guild debuted a production of the New Line Cinema film, “Hairspray” over the weekend at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre in Joliet.
“Hairspray” was presented through a special arrangement with Music Theatre International.
The Joliet Drama Guild presents another round of shows the first weekend in August. Performances are to be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 4 and 5, as well as at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6, at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre in Joliet.
The production follows the story of a plump young teen named Tracy Turnblad as she aims to teach 1962 Baltimore about the wonders of integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show.
“Even though, it’s set in the early 60s, it is a story for our times now,” said Marty Kasper, president of the Joliet Drama Guild. “It’s about racial integration in Baltimore specifically. [The] show is basically an all white music dance show, like ‘American Band Stand.’ They have one day a week of bringing in the black crowd to come, and this takes care of it in a way.
The central message in “Hairspray” is carried out by the production’s lead character.
Kasper said it is up to Turnblad to say, “‘It should always be integrated. There shouldn’t be just a one day for that.’”
“It’s about the struggle for [Turnblad] to get that done and the struggle for her to be accepted for who she is, not for what others perceive her to be,” he said.
Auditions for the production began in April and subsequently members of the Joliet Drama Guild started working on music in May, dance in June and putting it all together in July.
Maddison Denault, who played Tracy Turnblad, said she is excited to portray the role.
“I’ve never been like the lead in a show before,” she said. “It’s my first big experience with it.”
Denault said she sees many similarities between she and her character, which is nice.
“I don’t find myself acting like too much because I’m so much like her,” she said. “Besides having to make myself seem younger, that’s the harder thing. Because it is harder for bigger girls to get roles in theatre or like anything really in life, especially [in the] arts kind of stuff, this is that one role you get that free pass to go ahead.”
The hardest part of bringing her role to the stage is wearing the different costumes all throughout the production, Denault admitted.
“I don’t usually wear dresses or skirts, and that’s like all I get to wear,” she said. “No pants for me.”
Denault said the message of integration the musical aims to convey is very important.
“It’s sad that it’s even still important today that we need to still be talking about that, but it’s definitely a show that everyone needs to see,” she said. “The message of inclusiveness, you know is very, very important.
Director Tyler McMahon agreed.
“I think it’s—as I have in my director notes for the show—it’s a comedy, a romantic comedy, it’s satire, and it’s a political statement all rolled up into one big show that people enjoy, but they don’t necessarily realize what they’re watching until the end. I think it’s a show that people enjoy, but ends up having a really good message that I think a lot of people walk away with.”
McMahon, who has been involved in the world of theatre the last 22 years, said he has enjoyed working on the Joliet Drama Guild production.
“I think the show’s pretty fun from beginning to end,” she said. “It starts off on a good note… It’s got a lot of comedy that subtly hides some powerful messages that you don’t realize it when you hear the joke or that particular comment until maybe a little bit into the next scene or the song.”
McMahon said he thinks people tend to enjoy the show for several reasons.
“I think the story is universal no matter whether you’re fat, you’re think, you’re black, you’re white,” he said. “I think it’s universal, and Tracy just wants to be accepted as who she is. This is who she is, she’s not going to change for anybody, and she wants everybody to just be together. I think for the most part—I think in general—that’s what a lot of people want. Just be who you are. I just want to be accepted for who I am. I think it’s that on top of, it’s just great music [and] it’s fun.”
McMahon added, “We’re hoping that by [the show’s closing number] people will want to get on their feet whether they know what the dance is or not because it repeats itself so often. We just want people to get up.”