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MEEKER I Meeker patrons of the performing arts were treated to a nostalgic and hilarious visit to the bouffant hairdos and rhythm and blues music of 1960s-era teenagers, and to the social issues of the times in the MHS Drama Club’s rendition of the popular Broadway musical “Hairspray,” April 20-22 at MHS auditorium. “Hairspray” delighted audiences by sweeping them away to 1960s Baltimore, where the 50s are out, and change is in the air.
This challenging production was delightfully and professionally performed by the enthusiastic cast and crew of the MHS Drama Club and International Thespian Society Troupe 1284. The Club is the largest student organization at MHS with more than 50 members out of a student population of about 180 and members represent the entire spectrum of classes and interest groups. Some are veteran thespians and some are first-timers who displayed remarkable talent in their debut performances.
The plot of the show centers around teenager Tracy Turnblad, delightfully portrayed by veteran thespian and junior Maclaine Shults, who lent both humor and a remarkable singing voice to her character in the starring role. She previously starred as Marty, one of the Pink Ladies in “Grease the Musical.” Her significant other, Link Larkin, the lead teen heartthrob and dancer on the “Corny Collins Show,” is portrayed by Collin Cochran, also a thespian veteran, in his final starring role as a senior. Collin’s acting, singing and dancing talents continue to delight audiences. Collin played the lead of Danny in 2011’s “Grease the Musical” with similar aplomb, and starred as the nefarious Rooster Hannigan in 2010’s “Annie, Jr.” He also starred in 2010’s “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The hilarious character of Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s rotund Mom, was especially-well portrayed by veteran thespian and senior Justin Hardy, who has an amazing spontaneity in comedic roles that result in knee-slapping laughter from enthusiastic audiences. Justin starred as the nerdy Eugene in “Grease,” and had roles in “Annie, Jr.,” and in “Little Shop of Horrors” as well.
Edna’s husband Wilbur Turnblad was portrayed with similar and complementary comedic spontaneous humor and wit by versatile thespian veteran and junior, Lathrop Hughes. He also starred in “Grease” as Sonny of the T-Birds, had a part in “Little Shop of Horrors,” and played President Franklin D. Roosevelt in “Annie, Jr.”
Veteran thespian and junior Tala Atoafa brought his amazing talents for singing, choreography and dancing to the stage in the starring role of Seaweed J. Stubbs, who becomes Tracy’s African-American mentor and teen friend, teaching her the latest rhythm and blues dances to help her win the dance competition. Tala choreographed and starred as TV singer Johnny Casino in Grease.
Corny Collins was portrayed by veteran thespian and sophomore J.C. Henderson who brings his great talent for singing to this role as a young and dashing TV teen dance show host (similar to the fabled “American Bandstand” hosted by Dick Clark). J.C. began his acting career by portraying Doody, one of the T-Birds in “Grease.”
The role of the racist, inflexible TV show producer Velma VonTussle was brilliantly delivered in song and dance by veteran thespian and junior Stephany Joos. She also played the role of Patty Simcox in “Grease” and Miss Hannigan in “Annie, Jr.”
Experienced thespian and sophomore Mariah Jensen‘s extraordinary singing and dancing talents were evident in her portrayal of Velma’s daughter, Amber VonTussle, who is Tracy’s chief rival for Link and the would-be winner of the dance competition. Mariah also played Jan, a Pink Lady, in “Grease.”
Junior Amanda Kendall, also a veteran and president of the thespian troupe, played Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend and Seaweed’s girlfriend after they are introduced. Amanda also portrayed the lovable Frenchy in “Grease,” and starred in “Annie, Jr.”
Playing the part of African-American celebrity singer Motormouth Maybelle, sophomore and veteran thespian Ohana Mataia, who along with talented, versatile thespian and senior Lani Mataia as Judine, delivered a beautifully-performed, show-stopping vocal duet, “I know where I’ve been,” that brought down the house. Ohana and Lani have also acted and served on tech crew for “Grease” and “Annie, Jr.”
Appearing in his first dramatic role was sophomore Calvin (Ty) Shepherd as dress emporium guru “Mr. Pinky,” who specializes in full-figured apparel for large women and is a delight to Edna.
Playing the Principal and Mrs. Spritzer was senior Tracey Roybal. The Matron and a newscaster were played by senior Genesis Samarripa. Little Inez was played by Jennifer Martinez and Lani Mataia. Torrie Gerloff played Penny’s mom, Prudy Pingleton. The Council members (teen dancers on the TV show) were played by Bruno Juarez as Fender, J.R. Crawford as Brad, Nicole Hilkey as Tammy, Sydney Hughes as Brenda, Aly Ridings as Lou Ann, Scott Smith as Sketch, Emily Eliasen as Shelly and Gable Smith as I.Q. The Black Kids were played by Dominique Devore as Lorraine, Jamie McLaughlin as Duane, Britney Smith as Gilbert and Sydney Hughes as Cindy Watkins. The Dynamites trio was played by Lani Mataia as Judine, Tracy Roybal as Tashina and Taylor Morris as Shayna.
Technical crew members included chief sound designer Luke Turner and music coordinator Shelby Burke. Lighting designers and technicians were Katie Dinwiddie, Jake Boesch and Kevin Eli, assisted by advisers Bob Amick and Caleb Dodds. The production director was Kim Kendall, assisted by Mary Washburn. The choreography director was Marla Lee and the student director was Tala Atoafa. Hair and makeup were done by Becky Ridings, Stacie Kincher, Rhonda Hilkey and Albi Pinella. Costumes were created by Mary Washburn, Kim Kendall and Chris Birdwell.
Hairspray is based on the 1988 motion picture by John Waters. Book by Mark O’Donnell, Music by Mark Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Thomas Meehan. Hairspray is produced by special arrangement with Music Theatre International
Kudos to the MHS Drama Club for their professional, outstanding and moving production of “Hairspray”!