Connecticut Repertory Theatre gears up for 'Hairspray'

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Tue., Apr. 16, 2013
Kevin Meaney as Edna Turnblad and Tina Fabrique as Motormouth Mabel in an upcoming CRT production of 'Hairspray.' Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Members of the cast of the upcoming Connecticut Repertory Theatre production of “Hairspray” gathered for a rehearsal on April 12. With just under two weeks to go until the production’s preview performance on April 25, rehearsals were still in a cramped space in the UConn drama and music building. In a small balcony overlooking the rehearsal space sat a mock-up of the show’s set design. Baltimore storefronts shared space with a rendering of the set for the “Corny Collins Show,” complete with larger-than-life vinyl discs.

Down below, cast members prepared to rehearse the show’s opening number, “Good Morning Baltimore.” With costumes still in the works, the only indicators of the ’60s era were the saddle shoes and large, fluffy petticoats worn by some of the women.

As is typical for a CRT production, the cast of “Hairpray” features a mix of undergraduate and graduate UConn acting students and Equity actors. According to a press release, graduate students include: Thomas Brazzle, Will Haden, Khetanya Henderson, James Jelkin, Colby Lewis and Sarah Wintermeyer. Featured undergraduate acting students are: Whitney Andrews, Emily Borne, Marisa Desa, Kaitlyn Gorman, Will Graziano, Harrison Haney, Darrell Hollens, Hannah Kaplan, Briana Maia, Ryan Marcone, Janeil Mason, Kayla O' Leary, Andrianna Prast, Coles Prince, Gina Salvatore, Adam Schneemann and Kate Zulauf. The cast will also feature professor Scott Ripley.

The eight-time Tony Award-winning “Hairspray” was produced on Broadway in 2002, with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, and a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. The musical was based on the 1988 John Waters film, “Hairspray.” The show tells the story of chubby teenager Tracy Trunblad, whose dream is to dance on the local television show “The Corny Collins Show.” “Hairspray” features fun, memorable dance numbers in the style of 1960s dance music and downtown rhythm and blues. Underlying issues of racial segregation and weight-based prejudice give the show some social-commentary heft. A 2007 movie version of the musical featured John Travolta, Nikki Blonsky, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Zac Efron and Queen Latifah, among others.

At the April 12 rehearsal, director Paul Mullins called for actors to take their places. Mullins has directed several shows for CRT (“I’m Connecticut,” “Urinetown,” “The Comedy of Errors”), and is a company member of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Taking center stage was Lena Mary Amato, an Equity actor making her CRT debut. Amato won the 2012 SALT award for Best Actress in a Season at The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse for her role as Tracy Turnblad, “and is pleased to reprise the role for the fifth time,” according to a release.

For props, Amato had a large handbag, a cardboard tube representing a can of hairspray, and what appeared to be a cell phone standing in for a transistor radio. Even without the beehive hairdo and the ’60s-era dress, Amato embodied Tracy.

Playing the role of Tracy’s mother Edna is Equity actor Kevin Meaney. “From his early years doing standup comedy in San Francisco and Boston, he’s amassed an impressive list of credits along the way,” according to a press release. Meaney’s credits include multiple appearances on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” and appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Regis,” “Oprah” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”  Meaney was clearly having fun with the campy role, and played well against Ripley in the role of Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s dad.

Also appearing courtesy of Actor’s Equity is Tina Fabrique, playing the role of Motormouth Mabel. According to her bio, Fabrique “has been honored with the Kevin Kline Award, the Acclaim Award, and a Helen Hayes Award Nomination for her performance as Ella Fitzgerald in Ella, which she originated at Hartford TheaterWorks, and has performed in more than 20 theaters across the country.”

Backing up the Equity actors is a very strong cast of UConn dramatic arts students.

The Connecticut Repertory Theatre will present “Hairspray” April 25 through May 5 at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre. Call 860-486-2113 for tickets or for more information. Tickets are available online at

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