BWW Interviews: Hair-Hoppin' Questions for LU's HAIRSPRAY Cast: The Nicest Kids in Town, Part III

October 27
9:09 AM 2011


Even before they hit the stage for Lipscomb University Theatre's production of Hairspray, it's pretty clear that cast members Nick Hogan, Tyler Ashley, Shelby Smith, Virginia Lodholtz and Day Day Wells truly are "the nicest kids in town."

Bringing the hit musical to life for Nashville audiences, which will include a large contingent of alumni in town for homecoming (Hairspray runs November 3-6 in Collins Auditorium on the David Lipscomb University campus), the large ensemble of more than 40 actors are hard at work, sharpening their skills, running lines, rehearsing like it's nobody's business and immersing themselves in plenty of 1960s pop culture and nostalgia.

Justin Boccitto , who's made a name for himself in New York City - where he teaches at Broadway Dance Center and is one of the visionaries behind The Group Theatre Too - is director and choreographer of LU Theatre's Hairspray, joined on the creative team by musical director Janet, assistant director Deb Holloway, stage manager Marjorie Wood, set/lighting designer David Hardy and costume designer June Kingsbury. Together, they've assembled a crackerjack cast of exciting young actors who, obviously, are having the time of their lives to bring 1960s Baltimore to Music City USA.

"This show we're doing is going to be fun for the whole family," says Mike Fernandez, chair of the Lipscomb theatre department. "It's flashy and fun, but it has some poignant moments."

Hairspray tells the story of a family that many would see as an outcast, says Boccitto. But the plus-size Turnblad family is also heavy on love and acceptance, and they end up helping Baltimore move into a new age by integrating the Corny Collins Show, a weekly TV dance show.

"The 1960s was a real turn of the tide in the nation. Great things were happening in the country, but we were still dealing with civil rights," Boccitto says.

"Deep down, what John Waters was trying to point out was the power of human connection," he explains. "Human connection is everywhere, no matter what body type we are, what race we are or what religion we are."

In that same spirit, Lipscomb's production of Hairspray was sparked by a partnership between Fernandez and Tenielle Buchanan, Lipscomb's assistant dean of students for intercultural engagement. In an effort to provide more outlets of creativity for students of diversity on campus, the theatre department produced Ragtime in 2010 and Hairspray this fall.

"I think Hairspray is a nice stylistic counterpoint to Ragtime," Fernandez suggests. "Both are about how we relate to each other, but with Hairspray, it's more fun and you leave the theater feeling lighter. This is a musical we feel anyone could bring the whole family to."

So just imagine that it's the 1962-1963 school year and you're about to watch your favorite teens on the hottest televised dance party in town...and get to know LU's "The Nicest Kids in Town"...


Hair-Hoppin-Questions-for-LUs-HAIRSPRAY-Cast-The-Nicest-Kids-in-Town-Part-III-20010101Nick Hogan aka Corny Collins Show Council Member Sketcho just imagine that it's the 1962-1963 school year and you're about to watch your favorite teens on the hottest televised dance party in town...and get to know LU's "The Nicest Kids in Town"...

What's your favorite song from the show? "You Can't Stop the Beat."

What's been your most fun experience during the whole Hairspray process? Getting to know the new people in our Theatre Department and spending time with Justin Boccitto.

American Bandstand or Hullabaloo? I would definitely prefer American Bandstand.

Tab or Diet Rite? Tab all the way. Diet Rite is gross!




Tyler Ashley aka Link Larkin

What's your favorite song from the show? "I Know Where I've Been" - It is such an inspirational number that moves me every time we sing it. 

What's been your most fun experience during the whole Hairspray process? Learning about all of the media that is going into this show. It is something that we as a department have never done before. It's going to be exciting. 

American Bandstand or Hullabaloo? American Bandstand all the way!

Tab or Diet Rite? Tab for sure. 




Shelby Smith aka Carol the Gym Teacher/ensemble

What's your favorite song from the show? Favorite to watch? "I Can Hear The Bells." Favorite to sing? "Big Doll House."

What's been your most fun experience during the whole Hairspray process? Milking my five little lines for all the laughs they're worth. And dancing in "You Can't Stop the Beat!"

American Bandstand or Hullabaloo? American Bandstand! I'm a fan, even as a teen in 2011.

Tab or Diet Rite? Tab!



Virginia Lodholz aka Ensemble member

What's your favorite song from the show? My favorite song from the show by far is "You Can't Stop the Beat." I love the message of the show and I feel like this song embodies everything the show stands for and it's also a blast to sing and dance! 

What's been your most fun experience during the whole Hairspray process?  My most fun experience during this process is being able to work with a cast as professional as this. I have already improved so much as an actor, singer, and dancer just from being around these people. It's amazing how much I have learned in such a short time! 

American Bandstand or Hullabaloo? American Bandstand! I listen to some of the music that was played on that show today! I love groups like the Mamas and the Papas and Simon and Garfunkel who both performed on the show! 

Tab or Diet Rite? Diet Rite for sure. 



Day-Day Wells aka "Dynamite Kaliyah" and Motormouth Chorus

What's your favorite song from the show? I honestly love all the songs in I don't have a favorite. I enjoy dancing and singing to each and every song in the show!

What's been your most fun experience during the whole Hairspray process? I would have to say my most fun experience was the first day of choreography rehearsal when I was dancing to "Goodmorning Baltimore" and Justin asks us if we had it and I said, "Ohh yeaaaaa!" Justin looks at me and says, "Oh yea! I like her! You have an awesome attitude and personality!" With this coming from a NYC director/choreographer & me being a freshman...words can't even explain how I felt! That was when I knew for a fact that this production was going to be tons of fun!!

American Bandstand or Hullabaloo? Hullabaloo!

Tab or Diet Rite? I don't drink diet neither one! I prefer water.

Nashville THEATER

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors - the history of which can be traced to 1989 and the first presentation of The First Night Awards - which honor outstanding theater artisans from Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and also includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors recognition. Midwinter's First Night honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. An accomplished director, Ellis helmed productions of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, all in their Nashville premieres, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show. Ellis was recognized by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror. In 2015, he directed William Inge's Picnic for Circle Players and Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years for VWA Theatricals, with The Larry Keeton Theatre's production of Beth Henley's The Miss Firecracker Contest set for spring 2016.

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