BELOIT - The West Branch High School theater class along with students from the middle school will stage "Hairspray Jr." at 7:30 p.m. today, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 3 p.m. Sunday.
Students in the theater class at the high school are completely in control of the production - their class project for the spring semester. "This has been one of the most educational experiences of the year and after producing four musicals this year the class is now running the middle school production which teaches them the behind the scenes work that actually goes into putting on a show," said class instructor John Zamarelli.
Some students in the class are in the cast of "Hairspray Jr." Some are working on the set.?Others are designing the lighting and sound, and, still others are directing the younger middle school actors, singers, and dancers.
"Hairspray Jr." is based on the film and hit stage musical, winner of eight Tony Awards, that has been adapted for young performers as part of the MTI Broadway Junior Collection. With a host of parts for a wide cross-section of students and an abundance of energetic production numbers including "You Can't Stop the Beat," "Without Love," and "Welcome to the Sixties," "Hairspray Jr." is a show that celebrates diversity and brings audiences to their feet with its positive message and uproarious sense of humor.
The story begins in Baltimore and the year is 1962. Spunky plus-size teen Tracy Turnblad has one big dream: to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When she finally gets her shot, she is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. In balancing her newfound power with her desire for justice, Tracy fights to dethrone the reigning Miss Teen Hairspray, Amber Von Tussle, and integrate a TV network in the process. With the help of her outsized mom, Edna, and guest DJ Motormouth Maybelle, the rhythm of Tracy's new beat just might prove unstoppable.
Eighth grader Peyton Zamarelli will play Tracy Turnblad who is the main focus of the story. She is the daughter of John and Jennifer Zamarelli. Peyton has studied voice for three years and has participated in musicals since she was a little girl. On stage as Tracy, she displays her avid ability to play a character part, especially when she performs the popular tunes "Good Morning Baltimore" and "Mama I'm a Big Girl Now."
Rounding out the cast of principals is eighth grader Cole Bates who portrays Link Larkin, Tracy's "Elvis -Like" love interest. Cole is the son of Brian and Angie Bates and participates in various sports while also taking part in the middle school choir.
Veteran actor and singer Destanee Goosby, a sophomore, will portray Motormouth Maybelle. Destanee is the daughter of Melissa Kirksey and has been seen on stage many times since her freshman year. She was recently seen on the West Branch Stage as the Kala in Tarzan. In "Hairspray," Destanee delivers an emotional performance that sets up the whole plot of the story, which centers around being treated poorly for being different or in this case, being black.
Eighth grader Jonathon Brand, last seen in "Mulan" and "Willy Wonka," portrays the part of Corny Collins in "Hairspray." He is the son of Jim and Melissa Brand. Jonathan is very believable in his character and makes the audience love him especially during the song "Nicest Kid in Town."
Sophomore Alex St. Clair, son of Ed St.Clair and Shannon Lowry, will be seen in the show as Edna Turnblad, Tracy's overweight, but very lovable, mother. Alex was last seen as the Uncle Henry in the Wizard of Oz.
Tracy's best friend, Penny Pingleton, is played by eighth grader, Skylar Dredge. Skylar is the daughter of Shane and Jessica Dredge. She was last seen as Mushu in last spring's production of "Mulan."
Sixth grader and newcomer to the stage, Carleigh Loudon, portrays the part of Velma Vontussel, the prejudice owner of the "Corny Collins Show." Carleigh, the daughter of Melissa and Scott Loudon, does an exceptional job with this character.
Junior, Jake McIlvain, son of Terri and Greg McIlvain, will be playing the fun loving character of Seaweed, the young black boy who befriends Tracy and welcomes her into his world.
Seventh grader Tessa Wells portrays the character Amber Von Tussel, Tracy's arch enemy. Daughter of Doug and Lona Wells, Tessa has been seen on stage in various shows and is known for her beautiful singing voice. Camryn Sutton, daughter of Carol and Sean Sutton, plays Little Inez, Seaweed's little sister. Camyrn was last seen in the Salem Community Theatre production of "Hairspray" last summer. Rounding out the list of main characters is Alex Petkash, son of Jenny and Paul Petkash, playing the part of Wilbur and Katie Mikes, daughter of Tammy Mikes, playing the part of Prudy Pingleton.
Student director Allie Harris has completely organized the show in its entirety including the dance sequences. Gabbi Sanor and Jake McIlvain have acted as dance coaches as well.
The chorus members include Abby Shutler, Olivia Mossow, Kylie Dean, Sarah Jarvis, Bailey Snyder, McKenzie Erb, Natalie Slepski, Amanda Payne, DaKarli Pagnucco, Makayla Jennings, Rebecca Kline, Tessa Wells, Mikayla Wallace, Griffin Lough, Caleb Sturgeon, Collin Layniczak, Max Craig, Gage Bickley, Cody Graham, Jacob Hurst, Nathaniel Crick, Mitchell Sharp, Mason Glover, Mike Jones, Gavin White, Paige Reardon, Allison Carter, Jenna Limpert, Abi Downs, Kaitlyn Mondak, Destany Blake, Emilee Sanor, Katelyn Tedrow, Teghan Boggs, Lexey Townsend, Camille Boals, Mikala Wyss, Alyssa Hardy, Lindsey Barnett, Reagan Whipkey, Desiree Suter, Alliyah Stuller, Kaylee Barker, Rianna Gillingham, Faith Brown, Grace Weingart, Beth Flickinger, Taylor James, Becca Jones, Abigail Stephens, Emily Algaier, Macey Stancato, Alyssa Bush, Skylee Bowlin, Zoie Davis, Karlee Bowlin, Kaitlynn Todd, Kiersten Miner, Dana Levite, Shyanne Craven, Starr Leyman, Valerie Mobley,Morgan Grim, Bethany Caruthers, Dana Wilke, Claire Headland, Sarah Wartluft, Hailie Pointer, Malyah Moore, Riley Tuel, Harley Townsend, Hannah Moore, Macie Minich, Molly St. John, Chloe Townsend, Katie Downs, Shiann Schaefer, Gabby Harrison, Danielle Harrison, Alaya Kiser, Katelyn Shreve, Emily Coffelt , Courtney McKenzie, Mackenzie May, Ragan Kirksey, Rachel Murphy, Gabbi Sanor, Kristen Bates, Josh Petkash, Rylee Caufield, Bree Metts, Brandon Utley ,Wesley Miller, Jane Stahl, Dakota Lovell, Laura Slutz, Victoria Mossow and Peter Biery.
The cast and crew of "Hairspray Jr." includes over 100 students and volunteers. Music director and artistic director is John Zamarelli. Dance coach Allie Harris has transformed the stage into a whirlwind of stage movements an all styles of Broadway dance steps. The technical crew for the show is comprised of Parker Zamarelli, Cooper Briceland, Colby Briceland, Kolton Kitzmiller, and Justin Pegg, all members of the theater class as well. The technical crew will be running 36 wireless microphones and making sure all the special effects are executed as planned. Over 20 hours were spent setting over 100 light cues that are required by the production.
Tickets for all the shows will be available at the high school during the school day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by calling the box office at 330-938-4442. Leave a message and someone will return all calls. All seats for the four performances are reserved and priced at $8 for adults and $6 for students. All patrons are encouraged to come to the school and pick out their own seats as soon as possible. You may also call and reserve tickets and pay for them at the door.