Did you see Hairspray on Broadway? Did you notice anything funny going on? Here are some fun facts about the run of the show on Broadway.
Fun Facts About Hairspray On Stage
Here we go…………………………
The Main Curtain for Hairspray on Broadway, is 27,000 feet of red silicon tubing in 350 pieces attached to a velour Austrian Curtain attached to a steel frame, altogether weighing 2,250 lbs.
The “turn your cellphone off” announcements made before the beginning of the show and before the start of Act 2, are voiced by whomever is currently playing Corny Collins.
The orchestra on Broadway is comprised of 15 musicians. Eleven are housed in the orchestra pit, the rest- the string musicians and the percussionist- play in two separate rooms in the basement watching the conductor via close circuit tv.
The rest of the major productions- i.e. Vegas, the First National Tour, and the licensed orchestrations use twelve musicians. (No String Section).
Hairspray also features four onstage musicians- Link on guitar, Penny on Harmonica, Velma on keyboard, Spritzer on the glockenspiel- this was originally done to fulfill an 18 musician minimum requirement for the Neil Simon Theatre.
The basic scenic design of Hairspray uses a traditional “in one” design technique. In the days before automation allowed scenery to seemingly change itself, all scene changes had to be done manually. To allow for the action to flow smoothly, shows were often designed so that after a large full stage scene, a small scene would happen down stage “in one” (or, in front of a backdrop downstage) while a scene change happened upstage of the curtain, out of view. A good example of this would be the audition scene (full stage), followed by the detention scene (in one), and then the sock hop (full stage)
Hairspray uses more than 150 wigs. The exact number varies. Sometimes Link, Corny, or Inez will wear a wig depending upon the actor and their hair, but not always. For example, Ashley Angel wears a wig as Link but Van Hughes doesn’t and Naturi Naughton wears a wig as Inez on Broadway (she didn’t on tour) but Carla Duren uses her own hair.
All actresses playing Tracy, regardless of size, wear a fat suit to give them the desired “Tracy” shape.
The pattern on Tracy’s Ked’s is drawn on with marker.
Tracy wears three wigs throughout the show- the “hero” wig at the start of the show, the blonde “skunked” wig used after she joins the Corny Collins show, and the finale wig. The headband with the attached hair that gets her put into detention is considered a prop, not a wig.
Under his trench coat, the flasher wears underwear and a undershirt.
The picture of the Dynamites has never changed, it still features original cast members, Kamilah (Martin) Marshall, Judine (Richard) Somerville, and Shayna Steele.
Despite the show taking place in June, Shelley wears a turtleneck, sweater and tweed skirt.
Edna’s fatsuit has the largest commercially available silicon breast implants sewn into the chest.
Prudy’s laundry bundle is just an empty cardboard box wrapped in brown paper.
The onstage TVs are empty boxes with a flickering light inside to mimic the glow of a real TV set.
Corny’s clipboard has a cue sheet for the daily schedule of the Corny Collins Show, like a real tv show would. On the other hand, Velma’s clipboard has a piece of paper with the lyrics to Velma’s Revenge printed on it.
Fender doesn’t put his stuffed sock in place until after Nicest Kids In Town ends. The sock is inside his waistband during the song.
Corny’s microphones are real vintage microphones, they’ve simply cut the cords.
The magazines that Tracy and Penny flip through in the Turnblad living room are old magazine covers hiding current magazines, for the amusement of the actresses.
The back of the vanities has fold down step stools to ensure that the shorter ensemble members can reach the holes for their faces during Mamma I’m a Big Girl.
The cast has been known to put things inside the laundry cart used in the audition scene to amuse themselves.
Velma was Miss Baltimore Crabs. Maryland is known for its crabs, and the joke is that Velma may suffer from a sexually transmitted affliction of the same name.
As we know from the timeline in The Roots, Sketch and Fender live happily ever after. The only time the stage version makes reference to this is during I Can Hear The Bells.
The Madison is a real dance of the time period, it was merely tweaked to look more visually interesting and to bring the speaking characters downstage.
At the end of The Madison Link, Tracy and Seaweed dance off together, but Inez is left to finish the number with the ensemble. She is not an ensemble member, but the only principal featured in that transition.
The hot dogs, buns and donuts in Welcome to the Sixties scene are all made of rubber.
The lite brite wall, with 610 individual lights is controlled by its own lighting board and operator from the basement.
The bag lady’s autographed underwear say “Yours Truly, Tracy”
The dodgeballs in the gym scene are thrown offstage at specific times and in specific places to be caught by stagehands waiting in the wings.
Possibly not incorrect, but still funny. Link knows Motormouth but by his actions you assume he hasn’t met Seaweed before Tracy introduces them.
On the same token, Tracy loves Motormouth and recognizes Seaweed from the show but doesn’t know they’re related.
The prop-record placed in the fake record player by Motormouth is actually a real Darlene Love record from the 60s (for now anyways).
The Chicken & Waffles bags have paper and hankies inside them.
All of the mothers in the mother-daughter day riot scene, with the exception of Motormouth and Edna are played by the ensemble boys.
And now, Act II……………….
Hairspray used to open act 2 with search lights over the audience, the spotlight ledges can still be seen above the box seats, just below the ceiling.
Act 2 now opens with the conductor encouraging the audience to clap along to the beat, this was started by Jim Vukovich who conducted the first national tour.
The Big Dollhouse was written as a number that could wake the audience back up and pull them back into the story after the intermission break.
The “for me” line sung by Edna is one of several references to the musical Gypsy written into Hairspray.
The jail bars used in the Big Dollhouse scene, are a send up to the original production of Chicago which used similar units for Cell Block Tango.
Next time you see the show, look carefully at the underwear hanging from the cell bars and ask yourself how they were strung there.
The Female Authority figure has several places within the show where she has the option of adlibbing or choosing from within a set of available jokes to use. At this point in the show, many actresses have chosen to talk to the audience in the front row.
Both Edna and Amber make references during this number to clothing that is not there to see. Amber is wearing a dress, not a blouse, and Edna is not wearing horizontal stripes. If they were costume intentions or just rhyming conventions is not clear.
Hooker #2 asks Velma if she knows her from 1st and Main. There is no “1st and Main” in Baltimore. It is though a common crossroads found in many cities throughout the states.
Seaweed and the mothers of the ensemble kids are at the protest, but not arrested. Why? Similarly, after saying he’ll ‘be right by their side’ Wilbur is not at the protest. And Link is the only boy appearing on the show on Mother Daughter Day. (double casting plays a part in this problem)
The line “Manipulating the judicial system just to win a contest is un-American” is a reference to the recent George Bush election scandal which included improperly counted votes and votes from the dead.
The phone Edna uses to speak with Mr. Pinky is foam rubber with the phone cord wrapped around a bungie, the end of the cord is held by a stagehand off stage who uses the curtain to protect himself from the impact of the phone recoiling.
The device Wilbur employs to close shop is called a Rube Goldberg device: something overly complex designed to perform a simple task.
The staging of Timeless to Me is a stylistic throwback to old vaudeville. A bare curtain as a back drop to performers doing an act relying solely on their talent whatever their shtick may be, was a common format in the late 1800s that remained popular through the 1930s.
Tracy’s jail costume is meant to be funny- because you never put horizontal stripes on a fat girl- they make you look fatter.
The dancing shadows are not all girls. Sketch and IQ can be seen on the top levels of their respective columns in wigs and bras. Inez is also a dancing shadow, despite not being an ensemble member.
Seaweed’s pocket knife doesn’t come out of his pocket. It’s kept on the side of Penny’s bed.
Prudy doesn’t really turn the bedside lamp light on. The light is controlled by the light board.
The blow torch can is kept on a ledge behind Tracy’s cell, not in Link’s pocket.
Tracy is being held at Baltimore’s Women’s House of Detention yet the wall on her solitary confinement cell displays “For a Good Time Call Brenda.” Is she bisexual?
The boys don’t magically appear on the top level of the scaffolding, many of them are already on the scaffolding but not appearing as dancing shadows.
The dance towers are a reference to the staging of the song Telephone Hour from the original production of Bye Bye Birdie.
The hearts on the light brite wall during Without Love were originally done by Ken Posner as a joke at the end of a long rehearsal, but were kept because everyone loved the effect.
The voice of the news caster heard over the television in Act 2 is none other than Hairspray creator, John Waters.
Link’s newspaper is designed to look wet, but Seaweed’s umbrella is dry. In actuality both of them are dry.
I Know Where I’ve Been was restaged in early 2006 to give off a more hopeful vibe.
Each of the wigs for the council girls first seen in “Its Hairspray” have names and most are made of wire and are hollow. For example Amber’s wig is called the cage; Brenda’s wig is called the rocket; and Tammy’s wig is called the soft serve.
Brenda’s ‘flip’ that was gone with the wind is hair attached to the purple scarf that she hands off to Fender, he holds it behind his back as he crosses stage right and passes it off to a stage hand.
Corny tosses the Ultra Clutch can he was holding during the song into the orchestra pit.
The riff at the end of Its Hairspray is done by whichever actress in the show does it best. It has been done by Tammys, Shelleys Brendas and even an Amber.
Brenda is wearing a petticoat over her dress while wearing the purple ultra clutch smock to give it the shape they wanted for the number despite wearing a straight line dress underneath the smock.
Edna’s dresser is the janitor looking person who “pushes” the giant can onto the stage. This is done so the dresser can be there to assist Edna and collect the wrap Edna removes during the number. The dresser stays behind the can for the whole number.
The giant Hairspray can has a fold down bench for Edna to rest on before her entrance.
For the finale in the Broadway production, several cast members enter through the lobby. To get to the lobby they exit the backstage area stage right, come up the back alley and into the area behind the audience where they sell concessions and merchandise.
Seaweed does his police costume to silver suit costume change in front of the back merchandise booth.
Amber’s sash has a pin to attach it to her dress at the shoulder and velcro to keep it closed at her waist. Velma’s sash is built into the dress.
Watch for when all the “guards”, i.e. the ensemble black boys, disappear for their costume change during Cooties.
When the ensemble black boys return during You Cant Stop The Beat, they hand off their helmets to a few of the white kids and they’re placed behind the dance platforms, out of sight but not off stage.
The dance break in You Can’t Stop The Beat reuses some of the dance moves we’ve seen earlier used by the black kids- i.e. Peyton Place After Midnight.
The choreography of You Can’t Stop The Beat is meant to integrate the dance vocabulary of the white and black kids into one cohesive whole.
The fire extinguisher is really empty, so that its light enough to pick up easily.
The cast members standing on the strip in front of the orchestra toward the end of the dance break for You Can’t Stop Beat are doing a slightly altered version of the routine to compensate for their limited space. (No cross spin)
The scoreboard for the tour is not as mechanically complicated as the Broadway unit. For example, the falling of the Amber name plate on tour is manually operated by an ensemble member, but on Broadway its an entirely mechanical piece.
Essex Community College is a real Baltimore college, but its since changed its name. It was not the original school name they intended to use in the show either, they had wanted to use a more well known school but John Waters felt this was a funnier choice.
Prudy arrives frantically looking for her daughter whom she saw on TV. Why was she watching the Corny Collins show or was it on the news? And why did she get so dolled up if she was so panicked (vain much?)? Besides, if she saw her on TV, she should recognize her “all done up like that.”
“I’m a pretty girl mama” is a direct quote from Gypsy.
There are 22 starburst Eventorium light fixtures used in the Broadway production.
The starbursts are flown out before the can opens so the streamers don’t get tangled in them. But are the starbursts decorations specifically for the Spectacular or are they part of the architecture of the building? Where do they go?
The Broadway can doors open downward and are operated mechanically. All the other productions use manual doors that open outward to avoid mechanical malfunctions.
Edna’s finale dress is reminiscent of Dolly Levi’s famous red dress from Hello Dolly.
The bit during Edna’s verse in You Can’t Stop The Beat that features The Dynamites and Lorraine (for some reason) singing “Go Mama Go Go Go” was originally done on the Tony Broadcast and later added to the actual productions.
Follow Motormouth Maybelle’s wandering pants. On Broadway she pulls the snap pants off and tosses them into the pit. On the first national tour they were handed off to Motormouth’s left, to Penny, who crosses the stage to stick them under the Miss Hairspray scoreboard. On the Non Equity Networks Tour, the pants are passed off to Motormouth’s right, passing several hands, reaching Shelley, who dances with them for several beats before tossing them into the wings mid dance move.
Motormouth Maybelle’s gold dress is a derivative of dresses worn by the Dreams in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls.
Amber tosses her bouquet when she and Velma join in on You Can’t Stop The Beat- LouAnn catches the bouquet passing it off to a stage hand waiting in the wings.
Certain productions of Hairspray which employ taller platforms, end with Tracy and Link in the back on the top platform by the can. The tours, which use the smaller sets and lower platforms, decided to keep Tracy and Link in the front so as not to be blocked out of view by Amber’s massive wig.
The ensemble boys push off the scoreboard and the throne as they exit after their bow.
The male and female authority figures are the only cast members who don’t take their solo bow on that strip in front the orchestra.
During curtain call, the bow order is usually Corny- Velma- Motormouth. When Lance Bass was Corny, this was changed to Velma- Corny- Motormouth putting Lance center stage and closer to the final bow.
For the group bow on Broadway all the principals are on the strip in front of the orchestra, with the exception of Inez who is oddly with the ensemble though she is not considered an ensemble member and in all other productions, she takes this final bow with the principals.
All the male conductors have been given a costume piece (a shiny blue blazer) to wear during their curtain call bow. Female conductors have no equivalent piece to wear.
Amber, after curtain call, gives Tracy her crown, which is a bit that was added around the one year mark- originally done on the tour absorbed into the Broadway show.
During the exit music the flip curtain flies in, a few moments later the curtain closes only to rise again a few moments after that. If you linger long enough you will see a stage hand put out the “Ghost Light” center stage, a long standing theatre practice, relating to superstitious ideas of theatre spirits.
In the script, it specifies that the show starts on a Monday in early June in 1962. Let’s say June 1st. (in reality, June 1st was a Friday in 1962, and the first Monday in June was the 4th)
Day 1 – Monday, June 1st
– Corny Collins says on air that the Miss Hairspray Spectacular takes place on June 6th.
– Amber says “don’t forget” to watch mom and me next Thursday on Mother Daughter day. Making Mother Daughter day take place on June 11th- AFTER the Hairspray Spectacular.
– Corny Collins encourages kids to ‘cut school tomorrow’ to come audition.
Day 2- Tuesday, June 2nd, The auditions.
– If Tracy sneaks back into school, detention takes place on Day 2; if not, detention must be the next day, Day 3. Lets assume Day 2.
– Tracy says the sophomore hop is the next day, “tomorrow”
Day 3 – Wednesday, June 3rd, the Sophomore Hop
– The sophomore hop, after school.
– Since the sock hop is right after school, also when the Corny Collins Show airs, we can assume that there is no broadcast on Wednesdays
– Tracy dances in front of Corny and he decides to put her on the show, presumably the next afternoon. Which brings us to day four.
Day 4 – Thursday, June 4th
– Tracy appears on the Corny Collins Show.
– In the 90 minute version used in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, Corny states that the Miss Hairspray Spectacular will happen “this Saturday.”
– Tracy runs home and gets a call from Mr. Pinky, which bring us to Welcome to The Sixties.
Here we have a gap in time.
Day 5 in the script- the following Wednesday, June 10th
– Dodge ball scene. We know time has passed because Shelley has the new Tracy ‘do and there is graffiti alluding to her fame on the walls.
– Amber complains to Link about his on camera kiss with Tracy, from It Takes Two, which presumably occurred six days ago, complaining as if this was their first time seeing each other since the kiss…
– The platter party takes place this day just after school, where we hear that Mother Daughter day is TOMORROW- as already stated, a Thursday. So this, therefore, must be Wednesday.
– We also know this has to be a Wednesday because Link and Tracy go to the platter party just after school. We have already seen that there is no broadcast on Wednesdays!
Day 6, Thursday/ Week 2, Mother Daughter Day, June 11th
– The protest. All the women are arrested.
– Wilbur, not at the protest, pays bail for the house. Tracy is sent to solitary.
– Presumably Link breaks Tracy out of jail later this night; escaping to the record shop.
– Motormouth says there are 24 hours until the Miss Hairspray broadcast.
Day 7, Friday/ Week 2, Miss Hairspray Spectacular, June 12th
– If the show started on June 1st, we are now at June 12th- not June 6th.
– Since the first Monday of June in 1962 was the 4th, the amount of days we accounted for would put us at the 15th.
– If we remove the assumed gap in time, Mother Daughter day takes place on a Saturday and the Hairspray Spectacular on a Sunday, which contradicts stated time references.
– Regardless, with seven days of plot, the story cant begin in “early June” and end on June 6th- it would at minimum need to end on June 7th.
Does Baltimore have a time warp that no one else has noticed?