Good Morning, Toronto: "American Idol" Veteran Olivarez Stars in Canadian Bow of Hairspray, Starting April 8

By Kenneth Jones
April 8, 2004

Vanessa Olivarez, the former "American Idol" contestant remembered for her pink hairdo, big voice and bubbly personality, is Tracy Turnblad in the Canadian production of Hairspray, starting previews April 8 toward a May 5 opening at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

The 22-year-old Olivarez, who was not ashamed to show off her plump figure to TV audiences and contest judges, went from being a colorist at an Atlanta hair salon to one of the finalists on "American Idol." Similarly, the zaftig teen Tracy who wants to dance on TV in Baltimore is proud of who she is.

Some saw Olivarez as a latter-day Cyndi Lauper who could go the distance in the TV talent contest on the Fox network, but she did not win the competition in 2003. She was, however, remembered for saying to the judges that she knew she had a big "booty but so does J. Lo."

She released the CD single, "The One," written by Canadians and released only in Canada to become a best selling single.

Playing Tracy's mother, Edna, at the Princess of Wales Theatre is Jay Brazeau, a Vancouver actor and veteran of musical theatre.

Tickets are on sale until Sept. 26, 2004, but the show is expected to stick around for a longer run.

The cast of 35 represents almost every province of Canada, from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

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Tom Rooney, a beloved actor in Canadian theatre, plays Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy's understanding dad and Edna's husband.

The cast also includes Michael Torontow as Link Larkin, Susan Henley as Velma Von Tussle, Tara Macri as Amber Von Tussle, Fran Jaye as Motormouth Maybelle, Matthew Morgan as Seaweed, Paul McQuillan as Corny Collins, Jennifer Stewart as Penny Pingleton, Kevin Meaney and Charlotte Moore as various authority figures and (the youngest member of the cast) 12-year-old Shennel Campbell, from Ajax, Ontario, as Little Inez.

The ensemble of Hairspray includes Clyde Alves, Breanne Arrigo, Lisa Bell, Adam Bolton, Karen Burthwright, Steven Cutts, Amanda DeFreitas, Felicia Dinwiddie, Starr Dominigue, Nicolas Dromard, Caissie Levy, Desmond Osborne, Melanie Phillipson, Stephanie Pitsiladis, Christine Rossi, Avery Saltzman, Sheldon Smith, Alison Smyth, Lindsay Thomas, Darren Voros, Jesse Weafer, Derek Wiens and Ryan Wilson.

Hairspray won the 2003 Tony Award for Best Musical one of eight Tonys won for the show. The stage musical version of the John Waters movie of the same name is directed by Jack O'Brien, choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, and has book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan and a score by Marc Shaiman (music and lyrics) and Scott Wittman (lyrics).

Designers are David Rockwell (scenic), William Ivey Long (costume), Kenneth Posner (lighting) and Steve C. Kennedy (sound).

Hairspray is presented in Canada by David & Ed Mirvish and produced by Margo Lion; Adam Epstein; The Baruch-Viertel-Routh-Frankel Group; James D. Stern/Douglas L. Meyer; Rick Steiner/Frederic H. Mayerson; SEL and GFO; New Line Cinema, in association with Clear Channel Entertainment; A.Gordon/E. McAllister; D. Harris/M. Swinsky; J. and B. Osher.

Tickets range $26 to $94 (Canadian). The Princess of Wales Theatre is at 300 King Street West, Toronto. For information, call (416) 872-1212 or (800) 461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com.