Full circle for 'Hairspray'

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Spritzzzzz! Hairspray fans have even more to cheer about. The movie version of the hit Broadway musical is expected to begin filming in summer 2005. And, New Line Cinema hopes "to at least film some of it in Baltimore," according to Mark Kaufman, senior vice president of production.

Kaufman said the script, which is being written by the musical's librettists, Tom Meehan and Mark O'Donnell, should be completed in January, at which time casting will begin.

Harvey Fierstein and Marissa Jaret Winokur are the only original Broadway cast members under consideration. But, Kaufman emphasized, "We've made no decisions. ... We could go to Anthony Hopkins."

Hopkins is the actor Waters first suggested (possibly tongue in cheek?) for Fierstein's Broadway role of Bawlamer matriarch Edna Turnblad. This is the role that was created by the late Divine in the 1988 Waters movie on which the musical is based - a tale of big hair, big hearts (and waists), a 1960s TV dance show and the struggle for integration.

Kaufman also said that Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the musical's songwriters, will write at least one new song for the movie, to be sung in the second half of the film by Edna's daughter, Tracy, Hairspray's tubby teen protagonist.

As previously reported, New Line has hired Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, producers of the 2003 Academy Award-winning movie Chicago, to produce the new film version of the Tony Award-winning musical. Zadan and Meron's credits also include the TV musicals of Gypsy, starring Bette Midler; Cinderella, starring Whitney Houston and Brandy; Annie, starring Kathy Bates; and The Music Man, starring Matthew Broderick.

"If you're going to do a movie musical, these are the guys," Kaufman said. "We're thrilled to have them."

The gift of Broadway

With the holidays fast approaching, if you're looking for a gift for the Broadway babies among your family and friends, here are a few suggestions.

Director Rick McKay's documentary Broadway: The Golden Age played only a one-week run at The Charles Theatre this fall, but it's now available on DVD (RCA Victor, $19.99). McKay set out to discover what happened to the Golden Age. To do so, he interviewed 100 Broadway legends and luminaries, from Gwen Verdon to Stephen Sondheim.

The finished product features a lot of talking heads, but who they are and what they say will be truly golden to Broadway aficionados. And, a few segments take your breath away - for example, the only known audio recording of Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy in the original 1947 production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Speaking of films about Broadway history, the PBS series Broadway: The American Musical, which aired in October, is available in a three-DVD boxed set ($59.99), featuring five hours of additional material.

If that's not enough, the amply illustrated companion book by Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon (Bulfinch Press, $60) gives a more in-depth analysis of the series' thesis that "the Broadway musical defines our culture and is, in turn, defined by it," as the authors put it in the book's introduction.

In addition, diehard fans of the entertaining and informative series might also enjoy the six-CD collection of more than 120 songs. For those who prefer their show tunes in smaller doses, there's a single greatest-hits CD that runs the gamut from Al Jolson singing "Swanee" to Hairspray's Winokur singing "Good Morning Baltimore."

A lighter look at the bright lights of Broadway is available in Steven Suskin's A Must See! Brilliant Broadway Artwork (Chronicle Books, $22.95). More than just a collection of Broadway posters, the oversized paperback is part Broadway history, part graphic arts portfolio and part trivia compendium.

In terms of history, there's the original 1943 Broadway poster for Oklahoma! and, on the facing page, the Boston poster for Away We Go!, which is what Oklahoma! was called during its out-of-town tryout.

In terms of art, there are examples of the work of artists ranging from Al Hirschfeld and James Thurber to Norman Rockwell and Edward Gorey. And in terms of trivia, there are even posters for flops. My favorite is for the 1988 musicalization of Stephen King's Carrie. "There's never been a musical like her," the poster reads. Author Suskin's comment is a succinct: "indeed ... "

Tribute reading

Russell Groff, administrative and group ticketing coordinator in the box office at Center Stage, died of septic shock two days before Thanksgiving. He was 26. An aspiring playwright, Groff had been working on a play called New Age, about the life of Galileo.

In tribute to Groff's life and work in the theater, Center Stage will present a reading of New Age at the theater, 700 N. Calvert St., at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15. The reading is free and open to the public. For more information, call 410-332-0033.

More readings

This month, the Baltimore Playwrights Festival launches its series of free readings of scripts under consideration for the 2005 festival. The following plays will be read in a day-long marathon at Fell's Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St., on Saturday: 11 a.m., Reflections by Dan Lieberman; 1 p.m., Blue Mermaid by Mark Scharf; and 3 p.m., Macho Sluts by Lisa Voss.

Three more plays will be read on Saturday, Dec. 11, at Mobtown Players, 3600 Clipper Mill Road. Here's that lineup: 11 a.m., Two Thieves by Michael Cookson; 1 p.m., The List by Terra Ziporyn; and 3 p.m., Life List by Stephen Kilduff.

For more information, call 410-276-2153.
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