The Palace Theatre will conclude its 2010-2011 professional season with the biggest musical it’s ever undertaken, according to the theater’s artistic director. Hairspray will have big hair, big sets and big music. It will also showcase 21 actors from New York, the most ever brought in for a show.
The musical was popularized in a 2007 Hollywood movie starring John Travolta, Nikki Blonsky and Zac Efron.
It tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a big-boned teenager in the 1960s who dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show. Once she makes it, she becomes an overnight star. But that isn’t enough. Turnblad wants to use her new-found fame to help integrate the show, which doesn’t allow African-Americans to dance except for the monthly Negro Day.
“Tracy is a great character,” said Carl Rajotte, the Palace’s artistic director.
In a medium that often highlights the negative, Rajotte said Hairspray delivers a great message to kids. It is hard to fit in, whether it is the 1960s or 2011, but Tracy is true to herself and as a result finds happiness. And not only that but she makes a difference to the world around her. While many of the youngsters who will enjoy the show have grown up in a world without segregation, Rajotte said they would be able to relate to the other side of Tracy. Rajotte said many of today’s role models are pencil thin, unlike Tracy, who makes her physique work.
“People will fall in love with our Tracy,” Rajotte said.
Rajotte was talking about the actress LenaMary Amato, who will portray Tracy and is making her Palace debut. Amato is originally from Philadelphia but now calls New York City home. She first played the role in Wisconsin’s Fireside Theater’s performance of Hairspray. Two additional cast members, Teanna Berry and Lamont Whitaker, are coming right from the national tour of Hairspray, according to Kerri Christopher, director of public relations for the Palace.
The connection between the characters and the audience makes Rajotte think the show will really appeal to families. He said he was surprised by the amount of families who attended the Palace’s most recent production, 42nd Street. The show exceeded ticket sales and many at the Palace believe the buzz for Hairspray has already begun. With 28 different set pieces and an entire wig department, many of which are gigantic 1960s beehives, Rajotte said there is a lot to see.
“I don’t know how we’re going to pull it off,” Rajotte said. “But we will.”
With so much to take in, Rajotte anticipates that people will want to come back for an encore performance.
“It will be a great time for all,” Rajotte said.
The show will be the culmination of the best season ever at the Palace, according to Rajotte, who said he and his staff pushed themselves harder than ever before. He said they experimented and tried different things and their efforts were well received by the public. Such a reception gives him great confidence.
Rajotte hopes momentum from this season carries into next year’s shows, which he is already planning. The Palace will extend its season with an additional show: they will bring back Rajotte’s original, The Four Piano Men, in June 2012. He was also excited that the Palace got the rights to perform Chicago next season and if all of that isn’t enough, Rajotte will be writing another original production, Royalty of Rock and Pop, which is a tribute to Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. He will work on that as soon as Hairspray opens. But where does he find the time to do all of this work?
“I’m a workaholic,” Rajotte said. “If you come by the theater, you’ll be sure to see my office light on.”