"The music is catchy and it's kitschy, but it all has such a deeper meaning," says director
Those who look through the musical's aerosol fog of fun tunes and colorful camp will discover a story about unlikely heroes trying to overcome the social injustices of 1960s America.
With the help of her mom (Edna, played by
When writer and director
In 2007, the stage musical received a film treatment starring
Eaton and his cast, however, don't want to shy away from the warts-and-all approach. Whether it's the cruel reaction of a racist white mother to black children or the nasty words hurled at Tracy and her pals, they want the hatred to feel more realistic than ridiculous.
"The (2007) movie has a lot of glamour, but it doesn't get really deep. We get pretty deep," says McCallon, whose portrayal of Motormouth Maybelle will be her very first role in an on-stage musical.
Eaton actually dedicated large chunks of rehearsal dates to cast discussions about racism. During these talks, many cast members bared themselves and spoke about how racism had affected them. Others admitted that they felt somewhat uncomfortable spouting off such heinous lines. The conversations sometimes became intense and emotional.
"It was kind of a bit of a shock when we did our first discussion. But Jeremy was really, really good about making the environment a welcoming environment," says Richards, who also played Mrs. Lovett in Missouri Western's production of "Sweeney Todd." "The cast has been so good about educating each other."
RRT's production also will address body issues and character development in a more realistic light.
Speaking to that, Connors says it wasn't too much of a stretch for him to play the shy, overweight Edna. Being a larger guy, he has dealt with the fat jokes and mean remarks his whole life. He's simply trying to carve out his own character, which can be a tough task when following in the footsteps of Divine and
"I don't think you'll see
"You don't even see Sean. You don't," McCallon adds. "You see a woman in her 40s. You see her struggles. You see her insecurities. That's who she is."
"I still have to shave my legs," Connors jokingly replies.
Genuine character development also has been a big focus for Richards. Some actresses and directors have envisioned
"When you look at the story, she does go through a lot of hard things," Richards says. "She's finally realizing that the world isn't as bright and cheery as she thought it was."
"This Tracy -- she's not taking no stuff," McCallon adds. "She's powerful, and you see Tracy turn from a teenager into a woman. She takes some responsibility and says, 'I'm going to make a difference in the world.'"
Of course, Tracy's transformation will be set to some of the most infectious tunes to ever hit
But if you poll the cast, each member speaks highest of McCallon's performance of the soulful, stirring "I Know Where I've Been."
"I get chills every time I hear it," Connors says.
Chills and toe-tapping are exactly the kind of reactions that Eaton is aiming for with RRT's "Hairspray." He wants to surprise theater-goers, have some fun and, most importantly, immerse them in the realities of the decade. That's why his cast is largely made up of newcomers to RRT. That's why he brought on
That's also why he didn't want to lose the important social commentary in the midst of the happy-go-lucky tunes.
"We'll have a lot of fun, but we'll be enlightening, too," Eaton says.
"Hairspray: The Musical" will be performed at
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