Photo Coverage: American Idols Visit Todrick Hall in HAIRSPRAY

American Idols took a day off from their National Tour to visit fellow Idol finalist Todrick Hall - currently performing as Seaweed in the hit Broadway musical HAIRSPRAY, presented by Gateway Playhouse at the Patchogue Theatre until July 31st. BroadwayWorld brings you a special look below!

On July 7th, Hairspray made its professional Long Island premier. Complete with groovy dancing, an array of colorful characters, and of course rocking mile-high do's, it's the story of Tracy Turnblad, a girl with dreams far bigger than her reflection, or hair. She finds there are even more important things than fame and dancing, even more so than attaining the love of her life, teen idol Link Larkin, such as friendship and equality. Although a musical comedy, Hairspray has a message to share that is as relevant today as it was in the time the show is set, 1962 Maryland. Dream big and live from the inside out, for what you feel and believe on the inside is the true manifestation of what you present to the world. Gateway's production of Hairspray is a particularly authentic representation of this 60's mentality of unity and opportunity both on stage and off.

With a cast ranging from a lead discovered on Long Island to the talents of an American Idol finalist and multiple Broadway and TV regulars, this company comprises what Casting and Artistic Director Robin Joy Allan calls "A melting pot of experience." Gateway Playhouse does all of its casting in New York City, auditioning a multitude of working industry professionals. With seventeen years of casting experience on the east coast, Robin says this audition was a new record breaker with such a tremendous amount of people auditioning. She attributes this tidal wave to several factors, including timing of the audition, the beloved nature of the show itself, a show most every performer would love to be in, a variety of characters of different races and ages, making the show accessible to actors of all types, and the faltering economy, which has at this point closed down six other regional theatres like Gateway on the east coast, minimizing job options for professionals. After already seeing hundreds of Equity performers at auditions they were submitted to by their agents and at Union calls, Gateway held an open call in Manhattan to which over five-hundred young hopefuls showed up. As is the usual in these situations with sheer large numbers of "auditionees," typing had to occur, a process where the Casting Director collects everyone's head shots and resumes and lines up all the actors in a room, determining who is worth keeping around to sing and dance based on their looks and experience; how well the actor fits the profile of the type of characters the production calls for. After typing occurred, about two hundred actors were actually seen, one of which, after several rounds of call backs, would be cast as Tracy. After seeing hundreds of people, in addition to sifting through piles of resumes Robin had on file from past productions and auditions, the cast was formed, bringing together thirty-one performers from all over the country.

Nell Mooney is playing Velma, returning to Gateway after performing last summer as Christine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Amongst an abundance of theatre credits, Nell also won the reality TV show called "InTurn", securing her a spot on famed soap opera "As the World Turns". If it weren't for Casting Director Robin Joy Allan's teenage daughter, Hayley, and her obsession with "American Idol", the cast would likely not include finalist Todrick Hall in the role of Seaweed. Aside from his Idol success, Todrick's resume also boasts The Color Purple on Broadway. Jerry O'Boyle as Edna, the role originated on Broadway by Harvey Fierstein, starred in the national tour. Wayne Schroder, playing the role of Wilbur, also has numerous New York credits, including the original cast of Dolly Parton's musical 9 to 5 on Broadway. Fran Jaye is Motormouth Maybelle, a role she played in the Vegas production with Harvey Fierstein, as well as in Toronto.

With a dynamite company behind her, perhaps what makes the production most exciting for Long Island theatre patrons is the chance to experience the excitement of a Long Island born and raised star. Brooke Shapiro (Tracy) is from Wantagh, Long Island, and is currently attending the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut as a Musical Theatre major pursuing a BFA degree.

The show is going to be a special one not only because of the story and the message it conveys, but because the cast is an authentic representation of the message the show so strongly upholds. With only two weeks of rehearsal before the show goes up, the company is living, breathing, and eating Hairspray (although hopefully not literally). With everyone on the Bellport property day and night, togetherness is the operative word.

Take a moment to step back and reflect on your personal perception of the 1960's. Did you live through the 60's yourself? Do you think of the music? The fashion trends? Segregation and racism? As Cat Stevens put it, "I've been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one. And I believe it could be, someday it's going to come."For more information, please visit www.gatewayplayhouse.com.


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