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City’s top teen talent in ‘Hairspray’

6/7/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Shown above is the cast of “Hairspray.”
Kay Caprez (Tracy Turnblad), of Our Lady of the Elms High School, and Jonathan Gruich (Link Larkin), of Copley High School, will star in “Hairspray” at the Akron Civic Theatre June 15-16.
Photos courtesy of Akron Civic Theatre
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Students from 10 Akron area high schools will be singing and dancing their hearts out in a production of “Hairspray” at the Akron Civic Theatre June 15-16.

The All City Musical is a project of the Civic and the Akron Advocates for the Visual and Performing Arts and is believed to be the first time that a production like this has been attempted.

Director Mark Zimmerman, who heads up the theater program at Firestone High School, said there have been summer theater programs in Akron in the past, but nothing like this project. Both he and Civic Theatre Executive Director Howard Parr were interested in getting a production like this off the ground.

Parr said the concept fits in with what the Civic is trying to do in the community.

“The Civic has been trying to balance community-based stuff with the nationally touring professional-based stuff coming through,” Parr said. “The things that are the most successful for us are the shows that feature people in the community, such as ‘The Nutcracker,’ Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet and ‘The Wiz.’”

Zimmerman said he was at first reluctant to bring “Hairspray” to the stage again because Firestone Theatre did the show in 2011.

“I didn’t want people to think that we’re taking a Firestone show and moving it to the Civic,” he said.

But when the rights for the first choice, “Grease,” were unavailable, Zimmerman said he reconsidered. He added that doing “Hairspray” a second time, with an almost entirely new cast and larger stage, gives him the chance to tinker with the show and make it better.

“‘Hairspray’ is the new ‘Grease,’” he said. “The music’s fun; it’s funny. [The students] don’t care about the message so much. They get to dance a lot and they enjoy that. It’s an incredibly well-constructed musical, and the message is important.”

The Tony Award-winning “Hairspray” is a musical comedy based on John Waters’ film about Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teen in 1962’s Baltimore who just wants to be on the local TV station’s dance show. She ends up stealing the heart of the show’s star and integrating the show in the process.

“Tracy learns to overcome what her own situation is and achieves at a high level,” Zimmerman said. “But what she wants is for everyone to be accepted for who they are no matter what they look like or the color of their skin.”

Playing Tracy in the musical is Kay Caprez, a junior at Our Lady of the Elms High School. Reprising his role as her mother, Edna Turnblad, is Firestone senior Jon Bozeka, maintaining the tradition of a male playing the part.

Jonathan Gruich, of Copley High School, portrays Link Larkin, while Firestone’s Tom Lehman is Corny Collins, host of the dance program.

Lehman said he’s enjoying his first musical theater experience.

“I like the contrast in music and how there’s something for everyone,” he said.

Kaitlyn Harris, of Copley High School, who plays Tammy, a member of Teen Council, echoed Lehman’s comments.

“Ever since the movie came out, I’ve adored this show,” she said, adding that she loves having the chance to perform on the Civic’s stage.

The 70-plus performers in the show also come from Revere, Akron Early College, St. Vincent-St. Mary, Hoban, East, Kenmore and Garfield high schools, and one cast member from Cuyahoga Falls is homeschooled.

“The kids are really impressed with the level of talent they are seeing,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve taken two or three of the best kids from 10 schools. How can you lose?”

Parr said The University of Akron also has been supportive of the production by allowing the use of its scene shop and Sandefur Theater for rehearsals. In addition, Temple Israel has allowed the use of its facility for costumes, and the musical’s orchestra has been practicing at St. John/St. Paul Lutheran Church, Zimmerman said.

Parr said so far ticket sales have been good for the three performances. He added he thinks the All City Musical could become an annual event in Akron.

“Every indication I have right now is that it will happen again next year,” Parr said.

He added that the show will be impressive.

“It’s going to be amazing in terms of its quality,” he said. “It’s inexpensive — the top ticket price is $25, and you can get a great seat for $10. And the Civic is a great place to see the show itself.”

“Hairspray” will be performed June 15 at 7:30 p.m. and June 16 at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Civic Theatre Box Office, by calling 330-253-2488 or online at www.akroncivic.com or from Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000.

The Civic is located at 182 S. Main St. The musical is made possible through the support of PNC and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as the Ohio Arts Council, Akron Community Foundation and the GAR Foundation.

For more information, go to the Facebook page All-City Musical (Akron) or www.allcitymusical/blogspot.com.

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