Musical Play 'Hairspray'

The Tony Awards for the best plays on Broadway in New York City will be presented on June eighth. One extremely popular play received thirteen nominations. They include best musical and best performances by an actor and actress in a musical.

I'm Steve Ember with Phoebe Zimmermann. Today we tell about and play music from "Hairspray" on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

The play "Hairspray" is a musical version of a funny movie written and directed by John Waters in nineteen-eighty-eight. It is about rock and roll music and relations between black and white teenagers. It takes place in Baltimore, Maryland, during the civil rights movement of the nineteen-sixties.

The musical "Hairspray" opened on Broadway last year. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote the music. "Hairspray" is a funny show about teenagers and the music they liked. The main character is a teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad. She lives in Baltimore in nineteen-sixty-two.

Tracy is a big girl. She is overweight. She also has "big hair." She wears her hair in a high hairstyle that was popular back then. She keeps it in place using hairspray. Tracy loves music. And she loves to dance. After school, she and her friends watch other teenagers dance on a popular local television show, the "Corny Collins Show."

Tracy's dream comes true. She is chosen to be one of the dancers on the show. She likes one of the male dancers, Link Larkin. He sings a love song to Tracy. Matthew Morrison sings "It Takes Two."

Tracy becomes very popular after appearing on the television show. The owner of a clothing store for large women wants to make Tracy a model for his clothing. Tracy wants her mother, Edna Turnblad, to help her become famous. Edna is also a very large woman. She works at home washing other people's clothes. She does not like to leave her house. Tracy tells her mother she must take part in all of the excitement of life. Marissa Janet Winokur [wi-NO-cur], as Tracy, sings "Welcome to the Sixties."

Edna Turnblad, Tracy's mother, looks unusual. She also has a very unusual voice. That is because she is played by a large male actor, Harvey Fierstein [FIRE-steen], who is dressed like a woman. Listen as Edna sings about her love for her husband, Wilbur.

All the dancers on the "Corny Collins Show" are white. However, once a month, the show permits black teenagers to dance on the show. Motormouth Maybelle, who owns a record store, organizes and leads that show. Tracy believes that black teenagers and white teenagers should be able to dance together on the show all the time. She and Motormouth organize a civil rights demonstration. But it turns into a riot and the protesters are arrested. Later they are released from jail. Motormouth sings about her own struggle for equal rights. Mary Bond Davis sings "I Know Where I've Been."

The television show organizes a contest called "Miss Teenage Hairspray." The people at the event vote for the teenage girl they like best. The event is broadcast on television across the country. The broadcast is paid for by a company that makes hairspray. All of the girls in the contest use the product to keep their large hair styles in place. Clarke Thorell as Corny Collins sings about hairspray.

The "Miss Teenage Hairspray" contest includes a dance competition. All of the teenagers, both black and white, join Tracy in the contest. They dance together for the first time on nationwide television. They all sing "You Can't Stop the Beat."

This program was written by Shelley Gollust. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.