Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Arts/Entertainment

January 26, 2012

New residents to help 'Hairspray!' hold audience

Happily cast in an imporant role, an Andover High School sophomore is one of 20 Andover actors who will help teach 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration in the musical "Hairspray!"

Fifteen-year-old Joe Benjamin admires the musical's civil rights history lesson, but certainly doesn't dwell on it. After all, he wasn't even alive in 1962.

"It's a part of history," Benjamin said of Hairspray's storyline, where African-American kids can only dance on the Corny Collins Show once a month. "But, ours is a funny show with lots of singing and dancing...I like that."

Benjamin plays Duane, one of the students in detention. He shows some moves to lead character Tracy Turnblad, who hates the once-a-month rule.

Hale would not reveal this local show's unique spin, only saying that it has one.

"We add lots of sugar and spice," he laughed, breaking into his huge braces-decorated smile, "and there's a whole lot of hugging going on."

Hairspray! is a popular musical for teens as there can be a large ensemble and the story hooks people of all ages. For the ActingOut producction, there is a cast of 86 and 20 actors are from Andover.

In the production, Tracy is obsessed with the Corny Collins Show on TV. Every day after school, she and her best friend, Penny, run home to watch the show and drool over the attractive host. But Tracy's mother, Edna, just shakes her head wondering what the big deal is. (Hollywood actor John Travolta played Edna in the movie version of Hairspray.)

Replace the TV show with a You Tube video, and it's a story that even today's teens can appreciate.

Acting Out! always includes adults and their children in their shows and Joe's mother, Mignon Hale, is in the ensemble.

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