Shannon Durig: Goodbye to Baltimore!

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The lyric "I know where I've been!" has never rang more true than with Shannon Durig.  After over 1,000 performances as Broadway's favorite big-girl Tracy Turnblad, Shannon will take her final Hairspray bow on Sunday, April 13, 2008.

Shannon first stepped on-stage at the Neil Simon Theatre in August 2003 as an understudy, but soon found herself shaking-it with the nicest kids in town eight times a week! Amidst teasing-up her towering hair and busting-down TV segregation, Shannon has fostered a loving family among her cast and fans.

BroadwayWorld had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Shannon Durig during her farewell week.  This lucky leading lady shares the absolute joys and unforgettable relationships this incredible role has privileged her…

Eugene Lovendusky: With over 1,000 performances, "wow" seems an understatement… How does it feel?

Shannon Durig: It feels amazing. I've always dreamed to be on Broadway; but to do 1,000 shows I feel is a dream come true beyond whatever I could have hoped and wished.

Eugene: Is there a special way you're going to celebrate?

Shannon: We had our big celebration for the 1,000th show last month. Of course, we'll have a party with friends, eat, drink and be merry. Really, I want to celebrate this great cast. It's bitter-sweet. These are people I've known for four-and-a-half years… I've grown-up with them. I've seen them more than my own family. It's like I'm graduating from Patterson Park High School!

Eugene: Let's rewind time back to 2003 when you made your Broadway debut as an understudy…

Shannon: When I first went on, it was an out-of-body experience. It was so scary and also so fun at the same time. I was nervous to do it again but knew I had to get back on the horse. These people trust you a lot to carry this show.  I remember being in awe. And now, for doing it so long – it's become a part of me. I have a blast every single night. I'm actually getting to play with my best friends on-stage in front of thousands of people.

Eugene: You really have been the heart of this show for so long. At the same time, Hairspray has had a revolving door of some great talent. For example, as Link Larkin, you've romanced with Matthew Morrison, Richard H. Blake, Andrew Rannells, Ashley Parker Angel.  Who's the best kisser?

Shannon: [laughs] They all are! They're all my favorites in their own special way because they're all different… And they're all hot! [laughs] I love all my Links.

Eugene: And talk about your Mamas! Bruce Vilanch, Paul Vogt, Blake Hammond, John Pinette and now your good friend George Wendt.  I imagine each new mother/daughter team has its own special flare and flavor.

Shannon: Oh yes! Everyone is so different in their part and every single mom has a different relationship with me… and our own special little bits and our ways of acting. It's our own world. That's what's so amazing – having worked so long, I have my own personal relationship with each of them, like family. I become their little daughter and I always will be. Even when they leave, I still keep in touch with them.

Eugene: You'd mentioned this "show-family" earlier and let's shine the spotlight on the ensemble again.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are some cast members who have been with Hairspray since day-one…

Shannon: Yes! Todd Michel Smith and Judine Richard. First of all, they are the heart-beat of the show. They've been there since the very beginning so they know it all – from winning all the Tonys and getting that hype. And they've been through everybody; so talk about being sad when people leave! They continue to do their best and be brilliant, and give it all every night. Todd is going to school, has a kid and is doing the show. Judine has a kid and does the show, too! They've been a very good anchor and example for me.

Eugene: The novelty of theatre is that it's live! You've probably lived countless on-stage goof-ups. Any worth retelling…?

Shannon: So many! One time, the opening curtain didn't go up, so it was just a spotlight on the curtain while I was singing. One time, Darlene Love called me "Shannon" on-stage.  The best is Darlene! [laughs] Darlene gives the best mess-ups and it's so fun. She's a legend of theatre, so she's been through it all. Her flubs are always hilarious. One night, just before she sang "I Know Where I've Been," we have that banter about why Tracy has done so much – she asks me "Why did you do all this? To get famous? For the boys?" and I say that "I just want us to all dance together on TV."  But one night, she just decided to turn to me and ask: "What do you think?" It's really funny when all that stuff happens because we have to keep telling the story through the mistakes.

Eugene: Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

Shannon: "I Can Hear The Bells" is my favorite song to sing. I love detention with Seaweed. And to hear Tevin Campbell sing "Run And Tell That" is probably one of my favorite moments, because he is always spot-on. To hear his voice is awesome!

Eugene: Do you have any favorite fan-moments?

Shannon: I like the fans that bring me gifts [laughs]. Actually, the other day, a girl outside the stage-door was crying.  She told me Broadway was her dream but she is a chubby girl and looks-up to Tracy so much.  You realize that you're an idol to some of them. And to tell them that it can happen, that's so cool.

Eugene: What have you learned about yourself while in this role?

Shannon: I can actually do eight shows a week! [laughs] I've learned that I can be a leader, and to be respected. Being the lead of the show, you have to set a precedent. I wanted everyone in the theatre to be positive and respectful and to show people what hard-work looks like.

Eugene: Have you learned anything from Tracy?

Shannon: Of course.  Tracy is an amazing girl. That's another thing that is going to be very hard; saying goodbye to Tracy. She's fearless; she does things that she knows is right. I feel like my life is kind of parallel to hers – she has her dreams and she makes them come true. She's a cool cat!

For more information on Shannon Durig, visit www.ShannonDurig.com.  For tickets and information on the musical Hairspray, visit www.HairsprayTheMusical.com

Photos top-bottom: Shannon Durig as Tracy Turnblad (2004, Paul Kolnik); Shannon Durig (2007); Shannon Durig and George Wendt (2007, Walter McBride / Retna Ltd); Shannon Durig at her 1000th performance party (2008, RD / Dziekan)

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Eugene Lovendusky Eugene Lovendusky graduated summa cum laude from SFSU with a BA in Writing for Electronic Media and a minor in Drama. Raised in the SF Bay Area, his love for the arts bloomed at an early-age; a passion that has flourished in NYC, where Eugene now lives and works. He is a proud member of the New York City Gay Mens' Chorus.