The School of Theatre at Florida State University received numerous standing ovations on Thursday for its production of the musical “Hairspray.”
Set in the 1960s, this story follows young, charismatic teen Tracy Turnblad, who breaks barriers of racism and sizeism after becoming an overnight dancing sensation on The Corny Collins Show. And from the first number to the last, the cast and the audience shared in an electric energy that never died out.
Aaron James McKenzie, who played Seaweed J. Stubbs, said that this first performance felt “exhilarating.”
“It’s always interesting (to go) through a rehearsal process not knowing how the audience is going to react,” he said. “And so, being that we put so much of our hearts into this show, having the audience there and present with us and supporting us just fills our hearts.”
Jessica Lea Patty, director and choreographer for the production, revealed that the cast had four weeks to learn a nearly 2-hour show, complete with 21 song-and-dance numbers. The ensemble practiced weekdays until 11 p.m. to learn the intricate dance numbers, set movements and nail their comedic timing.
All their hard work paid off with a near flawless show that earned them multiple standing ovations. However the most powerful moment of the show came when Azhariyha Vaughn delivered a gripping rendition of Motormouth Maybelle’s “I Know Where I’ve Been.”
The song’s message is one of faith in a more just and tolerant tomorrow in the face of evidence that it will be a very difficult road.
Ironically, the play itself was a sign of where American tolerance has grown from. Patty noted that they had to rewrite some lines of the play due to certain jokes and statements that are now acknowledged as being insensitive or offensive.
With today's turbulent socio-political climate of fearing our differences, the show’s themes of tolerance and acceptance are more relevant than ever. This was a knowledge that the entire cast and crew was well aware of and delivered their message of inclusivity with a strong sense of responsibility.
“It’s a message that needs to be heard and reiterated in different forms,” said De’ja Crumpton, who played Lil’ Inez in the production. “It’s just been a long time coming and there’s no better time than now for people to listen.”
The show will be performed through Feb. 24. Tickets can be purchased on the The School of Theatre at Florida State’s website.