'Hairspray' is ready to hit the road

Casting call goes out for national tour of Broadway hit

Didn't get cast in Hairspray the first time around? Well, get out those Aquanet cans again - you've got another chance. The hit musical is holding an open-call audition in New York on Sept. 20 for its first national tour, which goes into rehearsal in the spring, then hits the road starting at the Mechanic Theatre in September 2003.

According to the show's New York casting director, Bernard Telsey, the auditions will be similar to those conducted in Baltimore last year, "except now many more people know about Hairspray [so] we're hoping to attract many more people than we normally would be able to reach."

Telsey said he's especially eager to see young actors "I normally would not have access to - kids in school or just out of school."

The audition notice calls for "males and females of all ethnicities, ages 15-25, with awesome pop singing voices, including the star role of Tracy - the Caucasian heavy-set, vibrant teen heroine. Also looking for an African-American girl age 11-14 with a great singing voice, and a large Caucasian male character actor with singing ability to play a woman, age 40s-50s."

That last description, of course, is for the role of matriarch Edna Turnblad, created on stage by Harvey Fierstein and in John Waters' 1988 film by the late Divine. Asked if Edna could conceivably be played by a woman, Telsey said the idea was "not a closed door." But of course, precedent - like the role itself - looms large.

The Sept. 20 audition will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at HERE, 145 Sixth Ave., New York. Sign-in begins at 8:30 a.m. Auditioners are asked to prepare 16 bars of a 1960s-style pop song to sing a cappella, and to take sheet music, a photo and resume. Those unable to attend may mail a photo and resume to: Casting, 145 W. 28th St., 12F, New York, NY 10001 - Attn: Hairspray Tour.

If you'd like to get a peek at Hairspray before the audition, The Ricki Lake Show is devoting its entire Monday program (11 a.m.-noon, WNUV, Channel 54) to the new Broadway musical and its source movie. Lake, who attended the Broadway opening, has a personal interest in the musical : She was the original Tracy Turnblad.

The Broadway cast will perform the musical's opening number, "Good Morning Baltimore," on the TV show, which will also air a clip from the movie. Lake's guests will include Waters and two of Lake's movie co-stars - Michael St. Gerard, who played Tracy's love interest, Link, and Jerry Stiller, who played her father.

Americanized plays

As its contribution to Baltimore's Vivat! St. Petersburg festival (Feb. 13-March 2), Center Stage will present staged readings of a pair of classic Russian plays, newly adapted by two American playwrights.

Constance Congdon's A Mother is an adaptation of a Maxim Gorky play of the same name about a mother who will stop at nothing for the sake of her family. Commissioned by San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater, it will be directed there by the theater's artistic director, Carey Perloff, and will star Academy Award-winner Olympia Dukakis.

"A Mother is a script still in development, so [the reading] will be valuable to everybody involved as it gets ready for its premiere," said Center Stage associate dramaturg James Magruder.

Regina Taylor's Drowning Crow is a modern retelling of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, transplanted to an island estate off the coast of South Carolina. In this African-American adaptation, which premiered at Chicago's Goodman Theatre last season, the character of the young playwright Constantine Treplev becomes a performance artist called C-Trip, struggling to escape his Gullah roots.

To reacquaint audiences with Taylor's source material, Center Stage will pair the reading of Drowning Crow with the first act of The Seagull.

Drowning Crow will be presented at Center Stage, 700 N. Calvert St., on Feb. 25; A Mother on Feb. 27. Curtain time is 8 p.m. and tickets are $25. Call 410-332-0033.

Festival

Speaking of play readings, Magruder's latest play, Dunkler-Related Disorders, received a staged reading at Washington's Kennedy Center as part of the Journey from Page-to-Stage Festival earlier this month. "It's about food, sex and Jesus, my traditional themes," explained Magruder, who wrote the play at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire a year ago.

The festival, which included more than 30 readings, panel discussions and workshops, featured the work of two-dozen area theater companies. Dunkler-Related Disorders was sponsored by the Shakespeare Theatre Academy for Classical Acting. Catherine Weidner directed a cast headed by Nancy Robinette and Timmy Ray James.

"I felt it went well," Magruder said. "I heard what I needed to hear and there was a good post-show discussion. It's ready for a production, I think. It's pretty brutal, but funny."

Magruder's connection with the Shakespeare Theatre will continue next month when the Washington theater presents a reading of his translation of Turcaret, an early 18th-century French satire by Alain-Rene Lesage.
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