You can't stop beat of 'Hairspray'

The Baltimore Sun

Tracy Turnblad will dance again.

Baltimore's scribe of the salacious, John Waters, confirmed yesterday that he has been asked to start work on a sequel to Hairspray, his story of big hair and integrated dance halls that became the surprise movie musical hit of 2007.

"I am just beginning to think about it," said Waters, adding he signed the deal with New Line Cinema, a Warner Bros. subsidiary, within the past two weeks. "I'm just figuring out what it is."

Waters, who doesn't like to talk about any of his projects in advance, suspects most of the characters from the original Hairspray will return. "In all sequels, you try to get as many of them back as possible," he said.

A Hairspray sequel, with most of the creative team from the first movie returning, would also give the filmmakers a second chance to do right by Baltimore, which was passed over in favor of Toronto when the musical was filmed in the summer and fall of 2006. At the time, producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan said Baltimore lacked the huge soundstages necessary for such a lavish production.

Although no such facilities have been built in Baltimore in the past two years, existing buildings could probably meet the filmmakers' needs, said Hannah Lee Byron, the state's assistant secretary for tourism, film and the arts.

"This would give us another opportunity to go after it," Byron said. "I would hope that we would have an opportunity to show them other venues that would possibly work. ... We never got to that stage before."

The Hairspray sequel is scheduled to open in July 2010, according to Variety, which first reported the story of Waters' involvement. Just weeks after seeing a Broadway musical adaptation of his 1990 film Cry-Baby close last month after 68 performances, he signed to write a treatment, or outline, detailing the characters and storyline for the new film.

The story of Hairspray, which Waters wrote and made into a film in 1988, revolves around the character of Tracy Turnblad. She's a big girl (some would say overweight, but true fans realize that term is way too judgmental) in early-'60s Baltimore who dreams of becoming a dancer on the local Corny Collins Show while also helping to integrate it. The film starred Ricki Lake as Tracy and Divine as her mom, Edna.

Waters' film was adapted into a Broadway musical that opened in 2002 and went on to win eight Tonys, including a best actress award for Marissa Jaret Winokur, who succeeded Lake as Tracy. Broadway veteran Harvey Fierstein played Edna and earned a best actor Tony for his effort.

The movie version of the Broadway musical - which brought stars Nikki Blonsky (a first-timer tapped to play Tracy), Zac Efron, Amanda Bynes and James Marsden to its Baltimore premiere in July 2007 - went on to earn more than $200 million in worldwide box-office receipts. Keeping in Hairspray's cross-dressing tradition, John Travolta played Edna.

Waters' initial story found its inspiration in The Buddy Deane Show, a local TV staple in the early '60s, the years between the rise of Elvis and the Beatles. While he refused to speculate on what direction the sequel might take, Waters acknowledged that he will have to embellish the story well beyond the fate of its source material.

"What happened in real life was that the show was canceled, and that's kind of the end of the story," Waters said. "And then the '60s happened."

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