Big Hair, Huge Talent: New Hope Christian College presents Broadway’s Hairspray
By Creative Arts Director, Eliot Grasso, Ph.D.
Mounting a musical like Hairspray takes an artistic task force of beehive proportions. From the minds that brought Eugene the acclaimed production of Disney’s Tarzan in 2013, producer Stephen Kenny and director Cindy Kenny are bringing to life a blast from Baltimore’s imagined past for April 2015 that is overflowing with popping tunes, humor, and wild characters.
January auditions brought a horde of Eugene’s finest singers, actors, actresses, and dancers to the New Hope Eugene Auditorium to tryout for New Hope Christian College’s latest creative endeavor. Among the outstanding performers selected for this production are NHCC Creative Arts senior Natalie Pruett as Tracy Turnblad, NHCC Creative Arts junior Jacob Thiessen as Corny Collins, NHCC Creative Arts senior Zach Ropp as Link Larkin, Floyd & Price (Seli Thomas, Jonelwlyn Thomas, Sarada Thomas) as the Dynamites, and UO’s Gospel Choir champion Andiel Brown as Seaweed.
NHCC is once again breaking the musical theatre mold by casting Edna Turnblad—typically a drag role—with a female artist, rather than with a male artist. The fabulous female in that role is native Seattleite and Eugene transplant Erica Jean, who holds a bachelor’s in Dramatic Music from Cornish College of the Arts. A mainstay in the Eugene scene, you may have seen her playing Mdme. Thenardier in Les Misérables, or singing at the Jazz Station’s Halloween show Haunted Heart. Jean’s favorite roles in Eugene have been the roles of Countess Malcolm in A Little Night Music, Evita in Evita, and Gertrude McFuzz in Suesical the Musical. Erica teaches ninth-grade Language Arts, and is developing a lecture/concert about Ethel Merman’s contributions to the art of Broadway singing: “To Broadway, from Ethel: A Love Letter in Brass.”
Rehearsals have been intensely fun thanks to choreographer Lindsey Salfran. Salfran arrived recently in Eugene to pursue graduate studies in Dance at the UO, bringing with her a wealth of professional performing experience and the original choreography from the Broadway production of Hairspray. With Stephen Kenny serving as music director, “Good Morning Baltimore” is becoming a finely-tuned choral presentation bursting with vim and verve.
The intimate setting of the New Hope Auditorium belies the massive scope of the production process. To build the set for Hairspray, NHCC has rented a warehouse on the outskirts of Eugene and engaged a world-class production crew who, by day, serve the Matthew Knight Arena, Hult Center, and Lane Community College with their extraordinary skills.
In addition to the high entertainment value that this show will bring to the community, NHCC’s purpose is to create a forum for discussing racial inequalities in Eugene. It may surprise some readers to learn that within open-minded Eugene there are some corners that are less open-minded about race equality, even in the 21st century. NHCC’s desire is to draw together artists from all walks of life to initiate a dialogue among diverse community groups about the place and importance of every one of Eugene’s citizens.
The tickets are going fast, and opening night is Friday, April 10, 2015. Investors from all over the state have thrown in with Hairspray 2015 to see this incredible vision appear at New Hope Auditorium. Join us in April 2015 for a fun, energetic, hilarious, and thought-provoking presentation of one of Broadway’s finest musicals.