Friday 5(+1): The Cast of HAIRSPRAY At The Roxy Regional Theatre
Clarksville's Roxy Regional Theatre transports audiences back to Baltimore - the capital of big hair and the city of big dreams - in 1962 with their production of Hairspray, now onstage through September 29. This weekend (which features the company's annual fundraising gala on Saturday night) kicks off the second weekend of the show's multi-week run in Historic Downtown Clarksville.
Just in time to tempt audience and to convince them to buy tickets now before they are all done, members of the cast found time to entice you with stories about their past experience, their creative processes and, getting right to the point, explaining why you should come see their show in the latest installment of our interview series, The Friday 5(+1).
Press on, gentle readers, and make plans to return to Baltimore for some great music and dancing and the impact of the civil rights movement...
Kelly Letourneau (Penny Pingleton)
What was your first "live, onstage" taste of theater? My first "live, onstage" taste of theater was a community theater production of Peter Pan, in which my older brother played Tootles, one of the Lost Boys. I was four years-old and was completely in awe of the production - Peter flew, Captain Hook scared me, and my brother transformed into the funniest Lost Boy each show. I was hooked!
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? Before every show, I warm-up and take a Grether's Pastille. For this show, my favorite "ritual" isn't "pre-show," but it actually comes before my first entrance. I sing harmony in "Good Morning, Baltimore" from offstage, and during that time, I love listening to Jenna and the entire cast from the wings. I say a quick "Thank You" to the Universe, and I'm ready to enter as Penny!
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? I was performing a touring production of Romeo and Juliet in Washington Square Park in New York City, when a passerby started screaming into his phone right where we were performing. He then proceeded to throw his phone against a nearby statue and swear as he picked up all of the pieces of the phone. My brilliant cast mate used it as an acting moment. We were just beginning the party scene in which Romeo meets Juliet, and he acknowledged the screaming man by saying, "Now, it's really a party!" It was hilarious!
What's your dream role? It's a tie! My dream role is Mary Flynn in Merrily We Roll Along or Medium Alison in Fun Home.
Who's your theatrical crush? Bernadette Peters - that woman can do anything. She will make you laugh, and she will make you cry. She is a goddess.
Also, Ralph Fiennes. I saw him in a four-and-a-half hour production of George Bernard Shaw's Man and Super Man in London, and I could have sat there for four-and-a-half hours more; he was so compelling and dynamic to watch.
Why should people come see Hairspray? I think Hairspray has something to offer everyone! At the heart of this quirky, funny musical is love - love for yourself, love for others, and how love can change the world. The issues that this musical deals with, we continue to struggle with in the world today. People are still marching and fighting for equality, and this musical is a great reminder that we have so much more to do, but if we band together, we can overcome. I think Motormouth puts it best: "So you tried once and you failed. We can't get lazy when things get crazy. Children, you were not the first to try and you won't be the last, but I am here to tell you I'm gonna keep lining up until someday someone breaks through." This show has a great message, catchy songs, fun dances, and a whole cast of hilarious and lovable characters. So, come check it out! You won't be disappointed!
Jenna Leigh Miller (Tracy Turnblad)
What was your first "live, onstage" taste of theater? The first Broadway show I ever saw was Beauty and the Beast. We went on a Brownies Trip and my mom was one of the chaperones. She said my back didn't touch the chair the entire show because I was so captivated by the show. When we were walking out the theater, I leaned over to here and I whispered to my mom, I want to do that when I grow up. I never looked back since!
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? My favorite thing to do is warm up vocally by myself and then finish with a Grether's Pastilles blueberry lozenge. I don't do anything too out of the ordinary. Right before I go on at the top of the show, I always make sure to tell myself, "You got this Jenna." Sounds silly, but it puts me in the right mindset to start the show.
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? My junior year of high school I was playing Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. All of Fanny's costume changes are quick changes. We were doing our very first dress rehearsal, so some of our costumes weren't completely finished. And when I had this one quick change, I was pulling down my dress and a safety pin stabbed me and then I started gushing blood from my thumb. But I was not missing my entrance so, I went on stage with a bloody thumb. Blood got on the stage, on my dress, on me, but I didn't miss my entrance.
What's your dream role? To be honest, I don't know if my "dream role" is written yet. But there are definitely roles that I would love to play, Tracy is absolutely one of them. I would also love to play Rose in Dogfight, Paulette in Legally Blonde, Jan in Grease, Fiona in Shrek and Lady of the Lake in Spamalot.
Who's your theatrical crush? My theatrical crush is definitely Lindsay Mendez, mostly just because I want her career and she is the sweetest human alive!
Why should people come see Hairspray? People should come see Hairspray because it has the perfect combination of comedy and heart. Some scenes will have you laughing aloud, and some scenes will tug on your heart strings. This show is still relevant today, and that is why it is so important for us to share this story. Change cannot happen, if we are not informed humans. This show hits 3 major themes that really speak to me. (1) We are more than what we look like, (2) Love is Love is Love is Love is Love, and (3) Never feel guilty for following your dreams. Everyone and anyone can relate to one, if not all of these themes in this show! Plus, it is just fun. Plain and simple, the show is a hoot and a half!
Jamila Hunter (Motormouth Maybelle)
What was your first taste of "live, onstage" theater? Pippin at TPAC - I fell in love. Also, Motown the Musical. I got a chance to sing with Diana Ross and I thought I was going to pass out because she actually picked me in the crowd.
What's your favorite pre-show ritual? I drink hot tea, pray, massage my throat, deep breathing exercises and I stretch.
What has been your most memorable "the show must go on" experience? When I skipped a whole verse of "No Bad New"s in The Wiz and there was no way for me to redeem myself. The band and ensemble went with it. I was so embarrassed.
What is your dream role? I WANT TO JOIN SPONGEBOB THE MUSICAL SO BAD! As either Pearl, a Sea Anemone (Squidward's tap number) or just in the ensemble. The Little Mermaid as Ursula, Rafiki in The Lion King. Asaka or Erzulie in Once on this Island.
Who's your theatrical crush? I don't really have one.
Why should people come to see Hairspray? Because you won't be disappointed. From beginning to end, you will fall in love with every character onstage. It's full of high energy, heavy dancing and we bring the house down - it's such a wonderful show.
Matthew Combs (Link Larkin)
What was your first "live, onstage" taste of theater? When I was about four years old, I saw the touring company of Beauty and the Beast at the Auditorium Theatre in Rochester, New York. I still will never forget seeing the beast's onstage transformation at the end. It was truly something magical to behold.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I love the feeling of being stretched, warmed up, and limber before I go onstage. So, before shows I take some "me-time," where I listen to music, stretch, and sing along.
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? Honestly, what comes to mind was a recent occurrence. This past Friday we had some technical errors with music tracks and scenery. We just had to power through the awkwardness, and eventually everything turned out fine.
Who's your theatrical crush? I don't know if I'd say that I have any "theatrical crushes." I do look up to many performers, especially those who come from humble beginnings. That is something that I can relate to.
Why should people come see Hairspray? This is a show that so many can enjoy. The music is catchy, the performers are professional and dedicated, and the show is very funny. In a larger sense, the themes in the show are still relevant today, and many valuable lessons can be learned from each character.
What was your first "live, onstage" taste of theater? The first professional show I saw was Annie at the Arie Crown Theatre in Chicago when I was in third grade. I fell in love with theatre because of this show, got the soundtrack (on vinyl) and sang the music every day! I had this fantasy that there would be a sequel called "Andy" and that I would play the title role. Never happened!
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? Typically, I don't get nervous before a show - and nerves can be helpful; so I like to wait until the last minute to get ready to "create" nervous energy for myself. Sometimes I will wait until the overture begins to start getting dressed. Since it takes a good 30-45 minutes to put on pads, drag make-up, wig and clothes to become Edna, I have to get ready as soon as I walk in the door. I do like to encourage my fellow castmates and spread the love so that we can all have a great show.
What is your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? In high school, I travelled with the Musical Ambassadors of the State of Wisconsin, The Kids From Wisconsin. During an industrial show on a particularly small stage, my hand got stuck in Carmen De La Paz' (now a star of several HGTV shows) snap up vest and ripped it open. I was 15 and SO EMBARASSED! I realized what happened, danced around Carmen and got her back towards the back of the stage so she could snap up and quickly get back for her dance break. I think it was so quick that no one noticed...or if they did, they didn't say anything!
What's your dream role? Actually, Edna is one of my dream roles and I have had the honor of becoming her twice now. I hope to have more opportunities to revisit Edna in the future. I have been very blessed and had the chance to play several of my dream roles: Gomez Addams, Scuttle, Nathan Detroit and Nicely-Nicely to name a few. Some that I haven't had the opportunity to become yet are The Cowardly Lion, Max Bialystock, Tevye, The Baker in Into the Woods and Pseudolus. Any directors out there that might want to consider me for any of these roles?? (HINT! HINT!)
Who's your theatrical crush? My two biggest theatrical crushes are Bernadette Peters and Kristin Chenoweth. Both are amazing character actresses and I always tend to be drawn to the character parts. I have two new theatrical crushes thanks to Hairspray...and from seeing Oklahoma last month. The first is Kelly Letourneau, who I first saw as Gertie but get the privilege to share the stage with every night as she becomes Penny. She is so funny and never stops being Penny in this show...even when she is in the background!! And, of course, the second would be our director Ryan Bowie who also plays four characters in the show. He plays each character differently. It's hard to leave the stage as one character and enter a few minutes later as another...but to be able to do that with four characters is very impressive! Plus, he can do absolutely everything as you will see from watching our show and reading the playbill!
Why should people come to see Hairspray? The show itself is just so much fun to watch! But the message is even better! We live in a world that is not much different from 1960s Baltimore. Everywhere you go, you experience some kind of hate or ridicule. Respect is simply treating others the way that you would want to be treated. Hairspray helps us to see the importance of treating everyone the same regardless of race, size, age, religion, political party, sexuality...LOVE AND RESPECT can make a huge difference if we let them. If you have seen the show before, we have found some tender moments that make our production even more special! And I believe we have a tremendous cast here at The Roxy!
Donald Groves (Wilbur Turnblad)
What was your first "live, onstage" taste of theater? My elementary school staged Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and I got to play the Wolf! I loved it because I got to wear brown Lee Press on Nail claws! The first show where I sang and danced was playing Friedrich in The Sound of Music when I was 12.
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? I love taking a moment to get quiet, shut everything else out, and go back to the script to review my parts and reconnect with my character. With Wilbur, that involves channeling all of my inner dad jokes!
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? I was playing Jean Valjean in Les Mis, and had a quick change that involved a new wig and a top hat. When I got back onstage, I almost immediately removed the top hat and handed it to Javert. When I reached for the hat, I got the wig too! So I took off my hat and hair, and handed them off so I could run to lift the cart off of Fauchelevent. When he handed them back, I just shoved the wig into my hat and went on with the scene!
What's your dream role? I'm dying to play Bobby in Company or Robert in Bridges of Madison County. Anyone looking to cast those parts should feel free to contact me!
Who's your theatrical crush? I would have to say Cheyenne Jackson - how can one person be so talented and beautiful at the same time? Or, speaking of Bridges of Madison County, Steven Pasquale. He's incredible...that voice!
Why should people come see Hairspray? The themes and ideas in Hairspray are just as relevant today as they are the day the original film was written. It has a powerful message of love and acceptance across the board that is important for people to remember. Love is love is love. On top of that it's a hilarious, exciting evening of theater being performed by a top-notch cast. The Roxy is really doing incredible things and producing fantastic theater. This show is one you don't want to miss!
Jessica Caracciolo (Amber Von Tussle)
What was your first "live, onstage" taste of theater? I saw Beauty and the Beast on Broadway when I was 3 years old and was hooked!
What is your favorite pre-show ritual? Saying the prayer that I learned from my children's theater - "With a song on my lips, and a prayer in my heart, please god, help me to make at least one person happy."
What's your most memorable "the show must go on" moment? I broke my ankle the night before we opened Gypsy at my high school. I was playing Tessie Tura and had to do the whole show on crutches - talk about a gimmick!
What's your dream role? I've been lucky enough to play a lot of my dream roles in community theatre on Staten Island (Elle Woods, Audrey, Adelaide, Fanny Brice). Professionally I'd love to play Sherrie in Rock of Ages!
Who's your theatrical crush? Hugh Jackman! He can do anything!
Why should people come see Hairspray? Besides the fact that it's so fun and colorful to watch, the show brings light to issues that were prevalent in the '60s, as well as today. Hairspray preaches acceptance and inclusion and proves to the audience that LOVE CONQUERS ALL! The talent is exceptional and it's really apparent that we're all having a great time on stage.
About Hairspray at Roxy Regional Theatre
The 1950s are out, and change is in the air, as Clarksville's oldest professional theatre - The Roxy Regional Theatre - welcomes Season 36 of live entertainment on the corner of Franklin and First in Historic Downtown Clarksville with a Tony Award-winning family-friendly musical, piled bouffant-high with laughter, romance and deliriously tuneful songs.
The setting is 1962 in Baltimore, and lovable plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire - to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star, but she must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a TV network - all without denting her 'do!
Starring Jenna Leigh Miller as Tracy Turnblad and featuring local attorney and Board Chair Stacy Turner in the role of villain Velma Von Tussle, the cast of Hairspray also includes Drew Stairs as Corny Collins, Brian Best as Edna Turnblad, Kelly Letourneau as Penny Pingleton, Jessica Caracciolo as Amber Von Tussle, Matthew Combs as Link Larkin, Treston Henderson as Seaweed J. Stubbs, Mikquala Skelton as Little Inez, Jamila Hunter as Motormouth Maybelle, Donald Groves as Wilbur Turnblad and Amy Snider as Prudy Pingleton, with Ian Erbe, Sylvern Groomes Jr., Mairys Joaquin, Sean Kincaid, Jameka Lache, Briar Moroschak, Lauren Proctor and Alexandra West rounding out the ensemble.
Directed and choreographed by Ryan Bowie, Hairspray is written by Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and is presented through special arrangement with and with musical recordings provided by Music Theatre International (MTI).
Performances of Hairspray run through September 29 on Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday, September 22, and Saturday, September 29. (Due to GALA 36, there is no performance on Saturday, September 15.)
Tickets are $25 (adults) and $15 (ages 13 and under) and may be reserved online at www.roxyregionaltheatre.org, by phone at (931) 645-7699, or at the theatre during regular box office hours (9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, and one hour prior to curtain). APSU students, military and CitySaver coupon holders can receive two tickets for the price of one to Thursday performances during the run.