Inside “Hairspray” rehearsals
March 29, 2017
South students have begun to prepare for the this year’s spring musical, “Hairspray”. Meaghan Dunham, the drama director at South, is in charge of picking the show and cast, acting and directing, as well as putting all of the technical elements together, along with Chris Pratt, the choral director.
According to Dunham,“Hairspray” was chosen because it is joyous as well as its message on the importance of inclusion.
“The message is important; it’s a lot of fun,” Dunham said. “It’s different from what we’ve done the past couple of years, and we always like the students to get a different experience in their musical.”
Mary Reinman ’17, playing the lead role of Tracy Turnblad, agrees with Dunham on the importance of the message.
“I think it’s a great show,” Reinman said. “.”
Students of all grades, genders and races are encouraged to try out for the musicals at South, Dunham said.
“As our school gets more diverse, we are encouraging more diversity in the arts, in music and in drama and in band and orchestra,” Dunham said. “We want kids who haven’t considered this extracurricular aspect of South to know that the door is open for them.”
At the auditions, students must sing and read from scripts, and the roles are chosen by who is best prepared, Dunham said.
“We try to cast everyone,” Dunham said. “Of course everyone can’t have a big part, the larger roles go to students with the most experience. You have to be able to sing the role, because in a musical, the singing is critical.”
The cast is not determined by the grade of the student, but by their abilities and acting skills, Dunham said.
“It’s not always by class,” Dunham said. “Just because you’re a senior, it does not guarantee you the best role, or the lead because we have to serve the play.”
When it comes to casting at South, double casts are used instead of understudies to ensure that more students are allowed the opportunity to succeed and experience an important role, according to Dunham.
“We are blessed that we have enough talent to cast a show twice, which a lot of schools don’t, so to give them this opportunity is huge,” Dunham said. “If you cast understudies, they may never perform and they work really hard, so this gives twice as many kids an opportunity, and we feel that that is more important to our process and so that’s why we do it.”
Once the cast was determined, rehearsals began in early January. The cast rehearses after school, two to three times a week, where they work on singing and blocking, according to Dunham.
“Some rehearsals are just to learn the songs, and other rehearsals are to stage the show,” Dunham said. “So where do you enter, working on characterization, making choices as an actor, working through scenes, making sure they understand the nuance and culture of the era.”
Students like Sean Gates ’19, playing Wilbur Turnblad, have also been preparing outside of the rehearsals.
“So far, on the weekends I’ve been looking over my music a little bit,” Gates said. “Rehearsals are going to continue increasing until the show, but I memorize a little bit on the weekend.”
Gates said he has been involved in musicals since he was in seventh grade, and even had a lead role in last year’s musical at South.
“I really enjoyed it,” Gates said. “It was probably the highlight of my year last year, and I wanted to do it again.”
As the students portray different characters, they can begin to look to them as inspiration.
“Tracy is a really upbeat, fast-paced person, who has a lot of optimistic energy,” Reinman said. “So I really enjoy that I can look at her and say ‘Oh my gosh, I wish I had as much energy as her,’ and try and be a little more like Tracy. She’s a really accepting person, so I admire that about her too.”
According to Dunham, the spirit of the show is among the most uplifting musicals ever written.
This year, South is expecting to give an amazing performance, Reinman said.
“Our musicals are always so great, and I don’t think it’s going to be anything less than usual,” Reinman said.
Tickets will be sold online, at the door or at Posterity Gallery. Sales will start around March 15.
Shows will be from April 28 to April 30, starting at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday.