New Movie Musical 'Hairspray' Takes You Back to the 1960s
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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Doug Johnson. And I'm Barbara Klein. Today we play music from the new movie about teenagers in the nineteen sixties called “Hairspray.”
“Hairspray” opened in the United States last weekend. It is the movie version of a popular musical play in New York City. That musical has been playing on Broadway since two thousand two. It won several Tony Awards, including best musical, the following year. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote the music for the play and movie.
But "Hairspray" really began life in nineteen eighty-eight as a funny movie written and directed by John Waters. 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.
“Hairspray” is a funny story about teenagers and their music. The main character is a teenage girl named Tracy Turnblad. 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. Zac Efron, as Link, sings a love song to Tracy called “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. Nikki Blonsky, as Tracy, sings “Welcome to the Sixties.”
Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s mother, looks unusual. That is because she is played by the famous actor John Travolta, dressed like a large 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 Maybelle organize a civil rights demonstration. But it turns into a riot and the protesters are arrested. Later they are released from jail. Maybelle tells about her own struggle for equal rights. Queen Latifah 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 hairstyles in place. James Marsden 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 on nationwide television for the first time. And they all sing “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”
Our program was written by Shelley Gollust and produced by Caty Weaver. To learn more about American life, and to download transcripts and audio archives of our programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Barbara Klein. And I'm Doug Johnson. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.