The first UNCG musical of the year kicks off this week with a whole lot of spunk, hip-shaking and, of course, hairspray.
The UNCG School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD) is coming together to produce the Tony Award-winning musical “Hairspray” from Oct. 1-8 at UNCG’s Taylor Theatre. “Hairspray” has been on the school’s musical docket for a number of years, and the faculty, students and staff couldn’t be more excited for this production.
“When we started talking about ‘Hairspray,’ everything just clicked,” said Jody Kaizen, UNCG Theatre manager and arts administration program director. “It has a powerful message, and it’s really relevant to a lot of the race relations issues that are happening right now.”
UNCG has brought in guest director and choreographer Amy McCleary, a seasoned theater professional who’s worked as a director, choreographer and performer at theaters across the nation. Even though McCleary’s working with students, she’s brought the same professional expectations with her to campus.
“The amount of energy you have to bring to a production like this is huge,” McCleary said. “The fact that they have full days in class and can come to rehearsal and bring that energy is impressive.”
Justin Cowan ’14, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Music degree in conducting, is working alongside McCleary as the show’s musical director. Having worked professionally for six years before returning to UNCG to complete his bachelor’s degree and start graduate school, Cowan said this experience is a great way for students to prepare for their careers.
“The educational value is huge because of the size of the show and what it demands from students,” Cowan said. “Having someone like Amy here is an incredible opportunity. They’re making a great professional contact for when they graduate and start looking for work.”
Behind the scenes, UNCG students are doing it all. The set and lights were designed by MFA design students and built by both undergraduate and graduate students. All of the costume design was done by UNCG senior Terry Baker. The orchestra is a combination of students, faculty and alumni from the music department.
Given the growing interest in musical theater from SMTD students, Cowan has led an effort to expand UNCG’s musical theater curriculum. Last year, he teamed up with UNCG alumnus Dominick Amendum ‘01, the musical director of Broadway’s “Wicked,” on a course titled “Audition Techniques for Musical Theater.” The students received private coaching and instruction from Cowan and Amendum – an opportunity that was truly once-in-a-lifetime. The course is being offered again this year, along with three new musical theater classes.
What can the audience expect from “Hairspray”? A lot of fun and a lot of laughs.
“It’s campy fun. It’s over the top,” McCleary said. “It’s a great show for all ages, and it’s a story that everyone can identify with.”
More than anything else, McCleary hopes the audience takes home the show’s powerful message.
“The overriding message is that you are enough. No matter who you are – no matter your size, no matter the color of your skin, no matter how outside the box you are – you are worthy and you are enough.”
Students, faculty, staff and the Greensboro community are invited to attend one of “Hairspray’s” eight showings, including the “Pay What You Can” preview on Oct. 1. Ticket prices are $18 for adults; $12 for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more; and $9 for UNCG students. You can purchase tickets at the Taylor Theatre Box Office located at 402 Tate Street in Room 115 of the Brown Building or online at theatre.uncg.edu. Tickets are also available by phone at 336-334-4392 (Taylor Theatre) or 336-272-0160 (Triad Stage).
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations