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'Hairspray' coming to Uniontown theater

| Saturday, July 19, 2014, 6:15 p.m.
Erin Stump (clockwise from front left), Dennis Gallagher, Rachel Szabo and Toby Maykuth rehearse “Welcome to the '60s” in the State Theater production of “Hairspray.”

A delightful show that features lively songs, impressive dancing and a message that is one of universal importance, the musical “Hairspray” is a fun and entertaining romp that takes its audiences on a journey of laughter while reminding us all that everyone in life regardless of appearance, gender or race should be treated equally.

“Hairspray” will be performed on Friday through July 27 in the State Theater Center for the Arts in Uniontown.

“It carries a great theme without hitting the audience in the head with its message,” State Theater board of directors Secretary Toby Maykuth said. “It has an upbeat positive message that focuses on discrimination but with humor.”

The show is being produced by the State Theater as a community theater event but is not a part of the theater's regular schedule, and most funding and promotion for the show was made possible by donations and private contributions.

“We have been blessed with a lot of donations from the community who made it possible for us to put this on,” director John Wagner said, adding that the majority of the budget was funded by the contributions received.

“Hairspray” first debuted as a movie released in 1988 that was written and directed by John Walters, whose wit and insight tell the story of “pleasantly plump” Tracy Turnblad, a teenager growing up in Baltimore in 1962 who hits the issue of racial segregation head-on in her passionate mission to bring blacks and whites together.

Striving to achieve her dream of starring as a dancer on the hit “The Corny Collins Show,” Turnblad shows everyone that true belief in one's self can indeed overcome prejudice, but is then faced with racial segregation on the show and in life that she tackles in a touchy and humorous manner.

The movie was then made into a Broadway musical that captured the coveted “Best Musical” award at the 2003 Tony Awards, then into a musical movie that debuted to audiences in 2007.

“Everyone loves ‘Hairspray,'” Maykuth said. “It's just a fun show with upbeat and entertaining songs that people just really enjoy.”

Maykuth explained that Wagner approached the theater board earlier in the spring with the idea of directing a community production and was pleased when they all decided on a title that would work for both the community and the venue.

Featuring a cast of almost 50, the show will highlight the performances of actors from as far as Washington, as well as talent from southwestern Pennsylvania.

“This cast is just amazing,” Wagner said. “It's a very, very talented cast, and I know that the audiences will be impressed with the amount of talent that will be on that stage.”

Maykuth, who will also be playing the role of Tracy Turnblad's mother Edna Turnblad, a role that was made famous with actor John Travolta's portrayal in the 2007 movie, said that the cast is composed of several veteran actors as well as newcomers who will be appearing on the stage for the first time.

“A lot of these people have worked together in the past on other shows but there are also several who are new which always makes a production interesting and fun,” Maykuth said, adding that while the cast is very talented, everyone has also been working well together. “Everyone has been very, very helpful, and that is always a bug plus.”

Erin Stump, 17, of Republic will be playing the lead role of Tracy Turnblad, a role that she performed at Brownsville Area High School in the spring.

“I heard that they were doing this and I said, ‘I have to go and audition,'” Stump said, adding that the upcoming production is different in its presentation and staging. “This show is more vigorous. The dancing is a little more difficult, but this cast is great.”

Stump said that the feedback from the Brownsville show was positive.

“Everyone loved the show,” Stump said. “I did not hear one bad review.”

Wagner said that directing a summer show has proven to be a challenge, having to plan around everyone's busy schedules, but the hard work and diligent efforts of the cast and crew are proving to be all worthwhile, bringing to its audiences a show that is delightful to watch, yet acts as a reminder that there are those who still fight for inclusion.

“It's a strong message and one that is still prevalent today,” Wagner said. “There are still people who are striving to not be discriminated against and “Hairspray' simply shows that you have to stand up to what you believe in. This show does that through humor as it delivers a message that is very relevant.”

Show times for “Hairspray” will be 8 p.m on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. July 27.

Tickets for the show will be $10 and can be purchased at the door or through the State Theater Box Office.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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