Hairspray Readies for Broadway Bow With New Seats and a New Song

News   Hairspray Readies for Broadway Bow With New Seats and a New Song The countdown for Hairspray's arrival on Broadway is in the single digits and with the new musical comedy's July 18 debut on the Great White Way, come a few changes associated with the would-be hit, whose buzz is strong.

Clarke Thorell (center) and the Corny Collins Show kids in Hairspray.
Clarke Thorell (center) and the Corny Collins Show kids in Hairspray. (Photo by Photo by Paul Kolnik)

The countdown for Hairspray's arrival on Broadway is in the single digits and with the new musical comedy's July 18 debut on the Great White Way, come a few changes associated with the would-be hit, whose buzz is strong.

Not only has the capacity of the Neil Simon Theatre, Hairspray's home, swelled by nearly a hundred seats, but there's also a new number in the show.

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.

Composer Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott 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 villianous mom Velma Von Tussle (Linda Hart), has now become "(The Legend of) Miss Balimore Crabs."

Hairspray begins previews at the Neil Simon July 18 with an opening planned for Aug. 15. Two days before the opening, Sony Classical will release the musical's original cast album, recorded by the cast June 30 and July 1. *

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 John 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 parents want revenge. Turnblad's own parents, however, are there to make sure Tracy stays on top.

The 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 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.