Community theater's production of "Hairspray" tackles big issues in a small space

Hannah Swayze • Updated Jun 22, 2018 at 12:16 AM

After about nine weeks of auditions, rehearsals, singing and dancing together, the Johnson City Community Theatre cast of “Hairspray” prepares for a final weekend of shows.

The theater sold out for the first weekend’s Saturday night performance. And every other performance was nearly full, attracting audience members from throughout the Tri-Cities to the well-known show.

“Hairspray” is a musical that follows the "rotund rabble rouser" Tracy Turnblad as she pursues her dream of being on television in 1960s Baltimore. Along the way, the show also tackles issues of prejudice, racism and body image.

Those themes — still talked about today — are accompanied by the catchy songs, timeless jokes and showmanship that won the musical 12 Tony nominations and 8 awards when it debuted on Broadway in 2003.

"When we first decided to do “Hairspray,” people thought it might be too much," said the show’s director and Johnson City Community Theatre President Jonathan Marin. “We said OK. we’ll dial it down set-wise, but we want it to be big and loud with a lot of glitter and colorful — big in a different way.”

In addition to the choreography and the show itself, Marin says something that drew him to the show was a message relevant to today's audience. He said that the theater's small space allowed him to focus on show’s messages of diversity and unity.

“Diversity is something that we don’t always tackle in the theater, but with our space it's important to do shows that do,” said Marin.

As the theater’s president, Marin said the show is a step in the direction he wants to take theater operations in. When he was running for the position last fall, he ran on a platform of “unity and growth” for the theater.

Marin plans on bringing the diverse community around them back to the theater and putting “the community back in community theater.”While the plan is one he anticipates taking about two to three years to really come to fruition, he has high hopes.

“Hairspray” continues with performances on Friday, June 22, and Saturday, June 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the theater, at 600 E. Maple St. in Johnson City.

Tickets are $14 and can be bought on the theater’s website at www.jccommunitytheatre.com.

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