See big hair, big musical at NLT

Published 12:02 am Sunday, August 21, 2011

Greetings, Natchez and the Miss-Lou!

Natchez Little Theatre, Mississippi’s oldest community theatre celebrating 79 years of entertainment, will open its 64th season Aug. 25 with the hilarious hit Broadway musical, “Hairspray.” Based on the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters, this show is produced by special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

“Hairspray” delighted audiences by sweeping them away to 1960s Baltimore, where the 50s are out — and change is in the air. Loveable plus-size heroine, Tracy Turnblad, played by Emily Ham, has a passion for dancing, and wins a spot on the local TV dance program, “The Corny Collins Show.” Overnight she finds herself transformed from outsider to teen celebrity. Can a larger-than-life adolescent manage to vanquish the program’s reigning princess, integrate the television show, and find true love (singing, dancing all the while, of course) without mussing her hairdo?

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“Hairspray” is a musical with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan based on the 1988 John Waters film, “Hairspray.”

The world premiere of “Hairspray” was produced with the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, Wash. The Broadway premier was at the Neil Simon Theatre on Aug. 15, 2002, and won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, out of 13 nominations. It ran for 2,500 performances closing on Jan. 4, 2009. “Hairspray” has been performed around the world and was adapted into a 2007 film starring John Travolta.

Assisting in the direction of this production are three young people who have grown up at Natchez Little Theater and are now off at various colleges in Mississippi and Louisiana. My musical director is Gabrielle Richardson of my alma mater, Millsaps College; choreographer and assistant director is Rachel Lindsey of LSUA and assistant choreographer is Thea Stewart of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Natchez. Tommy Jackson is conducting the MT Pit Orchestra and Don Vesterse has taken the sets, costumes and big hair-dos for NLT’s largest dancing and singing cast.

Starring alongside Emily Ham are Bo Allen as Edna Turnblad; Eric Barbato as Corny Collins; Lou Ellen Stout as Velma Von Tussle; Lenifer Adams as Motormouth Maybelle; Katie Sanderson as Penny Pingleton; Matt Fontenot as Link Larkin; Bentá Thomas as Seaweed; Chris Cavette as Wilbur Turnblad; Arden McMillin as Amber Von Tussle; Patricia Ware as Little Inez and Judy Wiggins as Prudy Pingleton.

The Corny Collins Council Members are played by Ashtin Houghton, Chris Jackson, Sydney Jackson, Chandler Johnese, Leah Manoley, Kaitlyn Mayfield, Trey Price and Dwight Williams. The remainder of this talented cast are Wade Heatherly, Deanna Hayden, Diamond Nicholson, Thea Stewart, Don Vesterse, Julie Emerick, Miranda Long, Kwamaine Clark, Kemani Fells, Jaylin Gibson, Orandé Watkins, Beverly Adams, Morgan Mizell, Stephanie Whiteman, Mary Jane Richards, Katie Borum, Bianca McCoy, Jonnetta McCoy, Troy Pernicka, Zemirah Singleton and Shakiera Williams.

This is a show you will not want to miss as you will be hearing about it for weeks to come. The energy is electric and the cast and crew, including Don Vesterse, Pj Forrest and Troy Pernicka who have put in well over 100 hours each to present this show to the community and its guests.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday evenings, and “Hairspray” closes with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Aug. 28. All tickets for non-NLT members and sponsors are $15 each and should be reserved or purchased in advance by calling Natchez Little Theatre located at 319 Linton Ave. at 601-442-2233; toll free at 1-877-440-2233 or online at

Natchez Little Theatre is supported in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Support from local sponsors allows Natchez Little Theatre to present more than 100 performances throughout the year at same prices year after year; free shows for local area nursing home residents and discounted prices for student matinees. Community support is what makes Natchez Little Theatre a success and attracts 23,000 a year to see our shows.

Thank you and I hope to see you at “Hairspray!”

Layne Taylor is the director of “Hairspray” and artistic and executive director of Natchez Little Theatre.