Holding power

THEATER

plenty of bounce

Waters' `Hairspray' curls their toes

Theater Column

October 17, 2002|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Two months after its Broadway opening, the musical Hairspray is doing so well, producer Margo Lion kids, "I can't wait to do it on ice!"

Playing to standing-room-only audiences, the show is grossing about $1 million a week, according to Lion.

Investors who were smart enough to put money into the musical have reason to hold their bouffants extra high. They've already received 20 percent of their investment back, and Lion said they can expect to recoup fully by late spring or early summer.

Reeling off a list of foreign locales, the Baltimore-born producer said there's been interest in producing the show in Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Korea, Japan and Scandinavia. And that's not to mention the national tour that kicks off at the Mechanic Theatre Sept. 9, 2003. "Isn't it thrilling? It's just this little industry," she said.

Meanwhile, the number of celebrities who've seen the Broadway adaptation of John Waters' 1988 movie continues to grow. A partial list since opening night includes New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Rosie O'Donnell (repeatedly), Siegfried & Roy, Britney Spears, Steven Spielberg, Rod Stewart, Robert Wagner, Barbara Walters and Martha Stewart. The latter's attendance at a performance last week caught the attention of the New York Post's Page Six gossip column, which reported that "the domestic diva looked particularly uncomfortable during a jail scene but applauded at the end."

Media coverage in general remains strong. Yesterday's New York Times ran a lead feature on Lion. And last week, co-stars Marissa Jaret Winokur - who plays the musical's tubby teen protagonist, Tracy Turnblad - and Harvey Fierstein, who plays her mom, were pictured in full costume on the cover of Time Out New York for an article on budget beauty tips. Quoted in a section on "tips for drag wanna-bes," Fierstein advised, "Do not get tattoos. And do not smoke."

And, Winokur will be featured in the November issue of Glamour and will also be seen in future issues of Teen People and Teen Vogue. And Waters is the cover story in the November issue of Out magazine.

Two superstar photographers, Stephen Meisel and Annie Leibowitz, have shot the show for Vogue and Vanity Fair, respectively; the Vanity Fair photo will be part of the magazine's year-end hall of fame.

Television has also taken notice. The Today show has featured Hairspray several times, and this past Tuesday the cast performed "You Can't Stop the Beat" at the finale of the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards. To make it to the broadcast on time, the actors exited through the audience immediately after the Hairspray curtain call and were transported to Radio City Music Hall by bus, with a police escort.

It even looks as if part of Lion's ice-skating fantasy could come true. The cast may perform at the opening of the Rockefeller Center ice rink later this month.

A talk by Uhry

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Alfred Uhry will deliver a lecture titled "From Tara to Torah: Bringing the Southern Jewish Experience to the Stage" at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills, at 8 p.m. Oct. 28.

Uhry won the 1988 Pulitzer for his play Driving Miss Daisy and a 1989 Academy Award for the screenplay. He received the 1996 Tony Award for Last Night at Ballyhoo and a 1999 Tony for his libretto for Parade.

The playwright's latest work, Edgardo Mine - based on the true story of a 6-year-old Jewish boy who, after a secret baptism, was raised by Pope Pius IX and became a Catholic priest - is currently in previews at Connecticut's Hartford Stage Company. In addition, Playbill On-line reports that Uhry is working on a new musical with Laurence O'Keefe, composer/lyricist of the recent off-Broadway show, Bat Boy.

Uhry's lecture is sponsored by Baltimore Hebrew University, which has named him the 2002 recipient of its Maurice A. Stiller Prize for Literature. Tickets to the lecture are free, but reservations are suggested. For more information call 410-578-6904.

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