Good Morning, New York: Hairspray Begins Broadway Previews July 18

News   Good Morning, New York: Hairspray Begins Broadway Previews July 18 The beehive is back.
Harvey Fierstein in Hairspray.
Harvey Fierstein in Hairspray. (Photo by Photo by Paul Kolnik)

The beehive is back.

Hairspray, the first and possibly most highly anticipated musical of the 2002-2003 season, begins previews July 18 at the newly renovated Neil Simon Theatre. The Marc Shaiman-Scott Wittman-Mark O'Donnell Thomas Meehan musicalization of the cult John Waters film is set to open Aug. 15, two days after its original cast album is released by Sony Classical.

Marissa Jaret Winokur (Grease!, Hair!) and Harvey Fierstein (Torch Song Trilogy) headline the company as Tracy Turnblad and her mother Edna, respectively. Also featured are Kerry Butler (Bat Boy) as Penny Pingleton, Dick Latessa (Cabaret, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) as Wilbur Turnblad, Matthew Morrison (Footloose) as Link Larkin and Clarke Thorell (Saturday Night, Titanic) as Corny Collins.

Also in the cast are Laura Bell Bundy as Amber Von Tussle, Hart as her mother, Velma, Mary Bond Davis as MotorMouth Mabel, Corey Reynolds as Seaweed and Danelle Wilson as Little Inez. The ensemble includes Eric Anthony, Shoshana Bean (Godspell), Joshua Bergasse, Eric Dysart, Adam Fleming, Jennifer Gambatese, Greg Graham, Danielle Lee Greaves (Rent), David Greenspan (The Wax), Katy Grengell, Jackie Hoffman (Obie Award for The Book of Liz), Hollie Howard, Katherine Leonard, Kamilah Martin, Matthew Morrison, Rashad Naylor, Judine Richard, Peter Matthew Smith, Todd Michael Smith, Shayna Steele (Rent), Brooke Tansley and Joel Vig.

"Hairspray," which, in Waters' film form, starred Ricki Lake, Sonny Bono and Waters perennial Divine, is set in 1962 Baltimore, where the girl with the biggest hair and the best moves can obtain fame on the city's number one dance revue, "The Corny Collins Show." Plain Jane Tracy Turnblad defeats the show's reigning queen, Amber Von Tussle, but then the girl's evil, bigoted parents want revenge. Turnblad's own parents, however, are there to make sure Tracy stays on top. In the course of her rise, Tracy falls for and wins the handsomest boy on "Corny Collins," winds up in jail and intergrates the dance program. Hairspray's score includes the following numbers: "Good Morning, Baltimore," "The Nicest Kids in Town," "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now," "I Can Hear the Bells," "Positivity," "The New Girl in Town," "It Takes Two," "Welcome to the '60's," "Run and Tell That," "Big, Blonde and Beautiful," "The Big Dollhouse," "Good Morning, Baltimore (Reprise)," "Timeless to Me," "Without Love" and "You Can't Stop the Beat."

Composer Shaiman and lyricist Wittman, who admitted they did not write dozens of potential songs for the show — as other songwriters tend to when writing musicals — have not altered their score greatly since its Seattle tryout (indeed their four audition numbers are still in the show). They did cut one number and added a new one: "Velma's Cha Cha," seen in the Seattle pre-Broadway run and sung by villainous mom Velma Von Tussle (Linda Hart), has now become "(The Legend of) Miss Balimore Crabs."

Composer and five-time Oscar nominee Shaiman ("South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut," "Sleepless in Seattle," "The American President") works with his frequent collaborator Wittman (Patti LuPone's "matters of the heart") on the musical. Mark O'Donnell and Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan (The Producers, Annie) wrote the book. 2001 double Tony Award nominee Jack O'Brien (The Invention of Love, The Full Monty) directs with choreography by Jerry Mitchell (The Full Monty). Designing the show are David Rockwell (set), Kenneth Posner (lighting) and William Ivey Long (costumes).

For tickets in New York ($65-$95), call (212) 307 4100. The Neil Simon Theatre is located at 250 W. 52nd Street. Hairspray is on the web at http://www.hairsprayonbroadway.com.

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With the renovation, the audience capacity of the Neil Simon Theatre, Hairspray's home, swelled by nearly a hundred seats.

During The Music Man, the Simon, a Nederlander house, seated 1,330 patrons. For Hairspray, a source close to the production revealed some 1,418 seats will be available of the 1,467 maximum (rows BB and AA are always removed for the addition of an orchestra pit and seats are often lost to sound consoles and other production equipment). The current seating estimate gives Hairspray a weekly gross potential of a little over $1 million.

New York Magazine reported the advance ticket sales of Hairspray at roughly $5 million. That's half the show's budget - the musical comedy's cost, including styling products, leopard print polyster and Necco Wafer-colored backdrops, is $10.5 million.