It's hot and sticky on the Collins Center stage and the director is sensing some fatigue from her teenage actors.

"I know it's hot and sweaty," Director Susan Choquette bellows, "but it's a summer show and it's supposed to be hot and sweaty!"

The actors pick up their pace and the rehearsal of "Hairspray" by the Andover Summer Theatre Ensemble goes on.

Some of the lead actors for this show are carrying more costume weight than usual. For Hairspray the wigs alone - never mind all that dancing - can cause a teen actor to sweat like a football player at summer training camp.

This is a summer training for teen drama buffs. The STE crew of about 40 teens from Andover and beyond are working hard, Choquette said. Teens are from Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, Medford, Salem, N.H. and North Andover.

This Andover version of the musical Hairspray is complete with a 10-piece orchestra. The songs include 1960s-style dance music. Set in Baltimore, Md. in 1962, it's centered around plump teenager Tracy Turnblad's dream to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance program. When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight. She then launches a campaign to integrate the show.

There's a real-life elected official at the center of the controversy. Wig-wearing selectman Brian Major plays Harriman Spritzer, president of Ultra Clutch Hair Spray, a character who is opposed to integration.

"Harriman is a nervous, nerdy fellow who is against the integration of the white kids and black kids on the Corny Collins TV show because of the potential negative consequences on his company's product sales," Major said.

The social message is just one part of the reason why Choquette chose Hairspray for the STE summer production.

"I (also) wanted something fun. Summer theater has always been fun for me," said Choquette, who is the drama director at Andover High School. "There's a lot of fun with the dancing and singing.

"There's a different energy in summer theater. Kids don't have homework and other things going on. I find them much more relaxed," Choquette said. "And I'm not going home to correct papers."

This is her first time directing a STE production. Her son is now 5, and the scheduling worked out. He attends a nearby camp while she directs the show at this four-week drama camp. Participants pay $485 through Department of Community Services to attend. Producers are Elly Seavey and Rita Casper, and Cindy Worthley of Andover's Dance Infusion is the choreographer.

Seavey said this is the first time there has been a local Hairspray production and that's exciting for the group.

HAIRSPRAY, the musical

Aug. 5, 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 7 at 4 p.m.

Tickets: $14-$16

Performed by the Andover Summer Theater Ensemble

Collins Center at Andover High School

80 Shawsheen Road

Directed by Susan Choquette, AHS Drama Director

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