North Summit High School styling up ‘Hairspray’
Ryan Summerlin January 22, 2013
After "Hairspray" opened on Broadway in the summer of 2002, it caused quite a stir.
The musical garnered 13 Tony Award nominations and went on to win eight, including Best Musical, Best Leading Actor and Actress, Best Direction and Best Original Score.
The production, featuring lyrics by Scott Wittman and music by Marc Shaiman, is based on John Waters’ 1988 film of the same name.
The story, which takes place in 1962, is about an overweight teen, Tracy Turnblad, who wants to dance on her favorite TV show and her enemy Amber Von Tussle who tries to discredit her.
Kathy Chappell, one of the teachers of North Summit High School’s music department, said she is looking forward to the school’s presentation of "Hairspray" that will open Friday, Jan. 25, and run Saturday, Jan. 26, and Monday, Jan. 27.
Chappell, the production’s pianist and main choreographer for North Summit High School said she was drawn to the musical’s high energy.
"This is a totally upbeat show and not only does it have very clever dialog with a lot of punchlines, every song is fun," Chappell said during an interview with The Park Record. "Every time we learn a new song, I hear the kids say it’s their new favorite."
Chappell also likes the production’s message.
"It tells us that we have to look deeper than on the surface of things and that we need to practice acceptance," she said. "I love that. I love that the kids are learning something important while having all this fun, because they are at that age where this lesson is important, because they are being bombarded by all these different influences from the media."
Chappell, who has been part of the North Summit High School faculty for the past eight years, helped select "Hairspray" for this year’s musical.
"When we were deciding last spring which production to do this year, we looked at our incoming talent, which are the kids who would be in the drama class this year," she said. "We felt we needed a play to accommodate a lot of strong students, and ‘Hairspray’ has a lot of roles that I would call leads. This musical showcases a lot of talent and we feel like our cast is loaded."
Music director Steven Hunter, who began working at North Summit High School this year, agreed with Chappell and said he liked that it had an abundance of roles.
"There are also a lot of roles for high-school aged actors, so the students here have an opportunity to be in the play," he said. "We didn’t have to go outside the school to fill the parts."
While he wasn’t concerned about the pressures of presenting a well-known musical, Hunter said the biggest challenge was finding enough people to staff the orchestra.
"We’re working with a group that is entirely made of members from the community," he said. "The musicians are volunteering their time to be here. We have 15 musicians and are doubling up some parts for them to play."
To accommodate the musicians, Hunter held "relatively few rehearsals" to put it all together.
"But that’s what made it possible for them to be a part of this whole thing," he said.
Because "Hairspray" is so popular with the students in the production, Hunter has enjoyed working with them as well.
"All the kids knew the songs coming to the production, so they were looking forward to performing them," he said with a smile. "Each time we would introduce a new song to the cast, it seemed they were just waiting for us to give them the go ahead."
The production staff held auditions last August before school began, Chappell said.
"We announced roles a couple of weeks into the school year and started rehearsing right off the bat," she said.
The trick for her was the time constraints.
"This is a one-semester class, and makes it possible for us to do a production towards the end of the semester," she said. "But we only have a few weeks to do it."
However, thanks to the students and staff dedication, the production is almost ready for opening night.
"The most rewarding thing has been for me to see the growth in the students over the past few weeks," Hunter said. "We had kids, who didn’t consider themselves big singers, come in at the beginning of the semester that we put into some pretty big roles.
One of them in particular said she has never sung a note in her life.
"She was cast in a one of the hardest roles when it comes to vocal ability, but she is doing such a great job," he said. "It’s fun seeing that these kids have the talent, but not know they do. I love seeing the looks on their faces when they realize that they are really good."
"We’re proud of what the students have done and we hope the public comes out and enjoys the production," Chappell said.
North Summit High School will present the musical "Hairspray," in the school auditorium, 111 E. 100 South in Coalville, on Friday, Jan. 25, Saturday, Jan. 26, and Sunday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance at the school office or at the door before each performance. For more information, visit www.nsummit.org/HighSchool .