Hairspray has its Tracy. The role has gone to Marissa Jaret Winokur, the actress who has been portraying the tubby Baltimore teen in the New York readings of the musical adaptation of John Waters' 1988 movie.
Winokur, whose numerous film and TV credits include American Beauty, Scary Movie, Dharma and Greg and Moesha, made her Broadway debut in the revival of Grease. She will co-star opposite the previously announced Harvey Fierstein in the role of Tracy's mom, Edna.
Neither Cara Dustman nor Michelle Timmons - the two actresses invited to audition in New York after December's open call in Baltimore - was hired to understudy Tracy. Stressing Dustman and Timmons' potential, Victoria Pettibone, a casting director with Bernard Telsey Casting in New York, said, "In the end, they were a little young, a little raw. It just takes time, but they are certainly people we would be interested in seeing sometime in the future."
Hairspray will play a tryout run at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre May 30-June 23 and will begin performances at Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre July 18. Opening night is scheduled for Aug. 15.
End the violence
Today is V-Day - not just Valentine's Day, but also the day earmarked byVagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler to increase awareness and raise funds aimed at ending violence toward women. Colleges across Maryland are holding V-Day events, and next month the national tour of Vagina Monologues comes to the Mechanic Theatre starring Melissa Leo.
A spokeswoman for the Mechanic explained that in each city the show visits, the producers like to hire a star with a local connection. Leo is best known for her recurring role as Sgt. Kay Howard in the former Baltimore-based NBC series, Homicide: Life on the Street. Center Stage audiences will also remember her from the theater's 1998 production of Paula Vogel's How I Learned to Drive.
Based on Ensler's interviews with hundreds of women, the Obie Award-winning Vagina Monologues also features actresses Amy J. Carle and Michele Shay (a Tony Award nominee for August Wilson's Seven Guitars). The show will run March 12-17 at the Mechanic, 25 Hopkins Plaza. Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $12.50-$45.
In other news from the Mechanic, Love Makes Things Happen, which opens a one-week run at the theater on Tuesday, will be the first in the new Urban Broadway Series, devoted to plays, musicals and gospel shows about the contemporary African-American experience.
The latest show written and directed by Morgan State University grad David E. Talbert, Love Makes Things Happen - which officially begins its national tour here - is a musical about a woman at the crossroads of a relationship. The score is by 10-time Grammy Award winner Babyface.
Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19-24. Tickets are $25-$37.50. For information on The Vagina Monologues or Love Makes Things Happen, call 410-752-1200.
Ella comes home
Over the past few months, Harriet Lynn has performed Ella Shields: The Woman Behind the Man - her one-woman show about a Baltimorean whose male-impersonation act made her a music hall legend - in London and New York. Now fittingly, Lynn, who describes Shields as a "unique talent who took Baltimore with her wherever she performed," is bringing her home.
Here are Ella's local dates: 8 p.m. tomorrow, the Creative Alliance, 413 S. Conkling St. (410-276-1651); noon Feb. 27, Shriver Hall, the Johns Hopkins University (410-516-5473); 2 p.m. March 23, Central Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral St. (410-396-5494); and 8 p.m. April 13, the Walters Arts Museum, 600 N. Charles St. (410-547-9000).
The Baltimore Playwrights Festival has announced the next three marathon sessions of free play readings: Saturday, plays by Chuck Spoler and Devorah Namm; Feb. 23, plays by Todd Ogrin, Curt Strickland and Tony Tortora; and March 16, plays by Brad Rogers, Gene Gateley and Ray Hamby. Readings are held at Fell's Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St., and begin at 11 a.m. For more information, call 410-276-2153.