Theatre UAB presents “Hairspray” April 11-15

With deliriously tuneful songs, big musical numbers, a huge cast and colorful costumes, “Hairspray” celebrates the ’60s and equality.
hairspray streamFrom left: Justine Nelson as Tracy Turnblad, Zachary Lampe as Link Larkin, Royzell Walker as Seaweed and (front) Peyton Overstreet as Penny Pingleton.

Theatre UAB will present the musical comedy “Hairspray,” fast-paced, family-friendly, filled with fantastic costumes and featuring a cast of 28 actors, April 11-15.

Theatre UAB is the performance company of the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Theatre.

The 1950s are out, and change is in the air. Winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Hairspray” is all about the ’60s and piled bouffant-high with laughter, romance and deliriously tuneful songs.

Based on the 1988 John Waters film by the same name, it’s the story of young, vibrant Tracy Turnblad in 1962 Baltimore. Determined to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” Tracy sets out on a mission to make that a reality. After being rejected from her audition, she meets Seaweed, who introduces her to new dance moves that land her a coveted place on the show. After becoming an overnight success, Tracy uses her newfound influence to advocate for racial integration on the television show. Throughout the musical, Tracy is the catalyst for change, not only within her own thinking, but also the people and the world around her.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. April 11-14 and at 2 p.m. April 15, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, Sirote Theatre. Tickets are $15 and $20, $6 for students, and $10 for UAB employees and senior citizens. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or go to Visit Theatre UAB online at

While Theatre UAB’s production is full of large, musical numbers, with fancy sets, costumes and hair, at its core sits the fight for equal rights, says co-director and choreographer Roy Lightner, MFA, assistant professor.

“This production celebrates acceptance,” Lightner said. “Acceptance of race, love, body and dreams. How beautiful that song and dance is used as the vehicle to demand equality.”

Lightner says he believes that New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley said it best: “For ‘Hairspray’ is, above all, Nice. – But Nice, in this instance, doesn’t mean bland. Think of it spelled neon, perhaps in letters of purple and fuchsia. That’s the kind of Nice that ‘Hairspray’ is selling. And it feels awfully good to pretend, for as long as the cast keeps singing, that the world really is that way.”

hairspray webJustine Nelson of St. Petersburg, Florida, as Tracy Turnblad“Hairspray” features music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. The production is co-directed by Lightner and Head of Musical Theatre Valerie Accetta, MFA, with musical direction by Carolyn Violi. Guest artist Kurt Alger, sponsored by the Jemison Visiting Professorship in the Humanities, will provide and style most of the wigs for “Hairspray.” He will also teach a wig styling workshop for theater students. 

Students in the Department of Theatre have approached this production with a fire and passion, with weeks of intense, long and detailed rehearsals, Lightner says.

“I am beyond proud of the work the students have put forth, and excited to share our work with our audiences,” he said.

The cast is Justine Nelson of St. Petersburg, Florida, as Tracy Turnblad; Ben Lundy of Fairhope as Corny Collins; Jack Cannon as Edna Turnblad; Peyton Overstreet of Tallahassee, Florida, as Penny Pingleton; Clara Holmes of Grand Blanc, Michigan, as Velma Von Tussle and Dynamite; Allie Nichols of Tupelo, Mississippi, as Amber Von Tussle; Zachary Lampe of St. Petersburg, Florida, as Link Larkin; Royzell Walker of Cincinnati, Ohio, as Seaweed J. Stubbs; Jori Rutledge of Mobile as Little Inez; Eboni Booker of Toney as Motormouth Maybelle and Dynamite; Brian Wittenberg of Johns Creek, Georgia, as Wilbur Turnblad; Kayli Porter of Bessemer as Prudy Pingleton, Dynamite and Matron; Antonio Mitchell of Phenix City as Mr. Pinky and Duane; Rachel Biggs of Lubbock, Texas, as Gym Teacher, Ensemble; Tanier Dutton of Carbon Hill as Harriman F. Spritzer, principal; Jeremy Richardson of Mobile as Gilbert; Devin Franklin of Birmingham as Stooie; Brooke Payne of Birmingham as Cindy Watkins; Lilly Bateh of Jacksonville, Florida, as Lorraine; Tyree Talden of Mobile as Thad; Meredith Morse of Westerville, Ohio, as Tammy; Diego Villanueva of Katy, Texas, as Brad; Joey Parker of Kansas City, Missouri, as Fender; Camilla Almond of Atlanta as Brenda; Brett Everingham of Atlanta as Sketch; Addison Counts of Chattanooga as Shelley; Jackson Perry of Hoover as IQ; Marissa Hebson of Pinson as Lou Ann; and Shaina Hamby of Birmingham as Motormouth Kid; with understudies David Parker of Birmingham, Elizabeth Forman of St. Petersburg, Florida, and Alyse Rosenblatt of Dallas.

The crew includes stage manager Lauren Edwards of Stockton, California, and assistant stage managers Anna Baehr of Spanish Fort, Savannah Faulkner of Bonita Springs, Florida, and Tyler Stidham of Chelsea. Professor Marlene Johnson, MFA, is vocal/text coach for the production. Faculty and staff designers include Cliff Simon, set; Sharon Morgan, costumes; Ed Zuckerman, lights; Sean Doyle and guest designer Isidro Robinson, sound; and J. Marc Quattlebaum, props.