If any show can be called feel-good, it would be “Hairspray.”
Initially rejected from TV’s popular Corny Collins Show because she is plus-size, lovable Tracy Turnblad later is allowed to participate.
She eventually becomes a celebrity overnight when she wins the show’s dance competition. In the meantime, Tracy campaigns to integrate the whites-only show as it airs in the early 60s.
“Hairspray” is the next production of Rockville Musical Theatre, much to the delight of T.J. Lukacsina, who is directing in his RMT debut.
Lukacsina said “Hairspray” has been on his bucket list since he first saw it on Broadway in 2006. He makes a point of catching the show whenever there is a local production.
“When I heard the RMT was accepting applications for shows for the 2019 season, I searched my mind to figure out which show I would like to see at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, which I thought I was ready to handle, and which had a name that would bring audiences in for the summer,” he said.
The answer was “Hairspray.”
Based on the 1988 movie by John Waters, the show won eight Tony Awards in 2003, including one for Best Musical.
“While I was growing up in the D.C. and Metro area, John Waters was a staple in my house,” said Lukacsina. “There was no escaping John Waters. His art and influence have permeated Baltimore for the better.”
Along with winning the dance competition, Tracy (Caitlin Grant) attracts the attention of Link Larkin (Derek Tatum). Tatum described Link as a “good looking, Elvis kind of guy.”
The heartthrob unexpectedly falls in love with Tracy, who is not the kind of girl he initially thought he would go for. That type is more like Amber (Kendall Sigman), a snobby “teen queen” Link is first involved with and is rude to Tracy.
“But then he starts getting to know Tracy,” Tatum said. “When Tracy goes to lead African Americans in their protest and gets arrested, he comes around to help.”
He also undergoes a big change, Tatum added. “At first, he’s all about himself, and the recording contract he wants. But then he understands there are more important things. He has one of the biggest arcs in the show.”
Tatum, who loves to dance, said he is also happy the musical is so dance-intensive.
“I’m happy to be part of this,” Tatum said of “Hairspray.” “It has a really important message.”
Lukacsina elaborated on that message: “It’s about change and hope,” he said. “What the musical gets right is that Tracy is not looking to change the world; she’s looking to change her community. Her dreams are big, but she understands that change starts at home, and will eventually grow from there.”
For all his love for the show, Lukacsina admitted there are challenges in directing it. The greatest is time management but that is not easy when you have a cast of 29 actors and a team of designers and producers.
“Only two songs in the show are true solo numbers; the rest are duets at a minimum, and most have an ensemble singing in the background. Trying to find the time to teach somehow all the music, dances and walking onstage and offstage is always a challenge,” he said.
“Hairspray” has music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and book by Mark O’ Donnell and Thomas Meehan.
In keeping with the tradition that began with the original Broadway production of “Hairspray,” Edna, Tracy’s mother, is played by a man (here, Jim Adams).
“Hairspray” runs July 5-21 at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, 603 Edmonston Drive, Rockville. www.r-m-t.org.