Today we talk with Jana Leard of Redding, the director of the locally produced “Hairspray” that will appear at the Cascade Theatre From March 30 through April 7 in downtown Redding. “Hairspray” is a Broadway musical based in 1962 Baltimore, Maryland. The central character is Tracy Turnblad, a plump teenager whose dream is realized to dance on The Corny Collins Show, after which she becomes an overnight local celebrity. “Hairspray” is a social commentary on the injustices of parts of American society in the 1960s. The musical’s original Broadway production ran from 2002 until 2009, during which it won eight Tony Awards.
Q: I’ve been hearing some buzz about “Hairspray” … a locally produced Broadway musical that includes 30 – or is it 35 – regional singers and dancers, plus half as many professional orchestra musicians in the pit. And you’re the director, right? Pretty ambitious undertaking, considering somebody just had a baby.
Yes, I am the director and I think ambitious is a funny word to describe it. (I actually had perfect timing with the baby….I delivered the day after we had our first rehearsal. I had it all arranged so that all of the singing and choreography was completed first while I still could be home with my newborn. Then I would come in for the last month and put it all together. )
Q: What was your exposure to “Hairspray”, I mean, other than as a director of the Redding performance?
I first saw Hairspray” in San Francisco about 5 years ago and just fell in love with the music and the characters. Then, just this past summer I saw the Mountain Play’s version at Mt. Tamalpais’ outdoor amphitheater version in Mill Valley with my husband’s family (it’s a tradition of theirs to go every year) and they did an amazing job as well.
Q: How did “Hairspray”end up coming to Redding’s Cascade Theatre?
The spring musical for the Cascade Theatre is chosen over a year in advance. We start researching what rights are avaiable and what cast requirements each show calls for, determine the royalty fees that are assessed to each production and develop a workable budget from there. We usually narrow it down to three or four productions we are considering before it goes to print in the next years season catalog for the Cascade Theatre, which goes to print in April.
Q: What’s your one-sentence description of “Hairspray?”
“Hairspray” has a little bit of something for everyone.
Q: Just the title – “Hairspray” – might cause some people to assume that “Hairspray” might appeal more to women. True?
I never thought about it that way. “Hairspray” is a social commentary on the injustices of parts of American society in the 1960s.
Q: I thought I must have heard wrong when somebody told me how many musical numbers are in “Hairspray” … something like 40? How can that be?
You heard right, the conductor’s score calls for 40 musical numbers, which include reprises, playoffs and bumpers for certain dramatic effect. Like I said, It’s a BIG musical.
Q: How does directing “Hairspray” differ from directing, say, the Cascade Christmas, I mean, other than the lack of manger animals and reindeer children?
In Cascade Christmas, every scene on stage is my creation. I conceive the ideas, create the characters and choose the songs…make the scene from my head come alive. With a well-written musical like “Hairspray”, I get to create my own interpretation of someone else’s ideas, characters, scenes and songs on our own stage. Plus, there are a lot more elements to direct. I’m not just directing sngers and dancers….now I’m directing actors (of all ages and experiences), singers, dancers, and 15 musicians.
Q: I have to ask, how are you handling the actual hair, since it plays such a prominent role, right?
The Hair in the shows is a character of its own! I have worked very closely with the wigs for this show. Each were handcrafted, styled, cut, colored and created out of real human hair pieces. Each wig was custom made to fit each character by lifelong resident of Shasta County, Michael Allen. Michael has been a member of the beauty industry since the early 1960s, and has enjoyed a reputation for the highest standard of design service in our North State neighborhood. His experience and creative skills has enabled Michael to reproduce styles (as wigs) from the era about which the production “Hairspray” is taken. These creations are made to be wearable and durable for the requirements of this particular production.
Q: Anything that’s surprised you about directing “Hairspray”?
Yes, the cast surprises me everyday. Each of them have been bringing something new to the stage everyday This is by far one of the most physically demanding musicals I have ever been involved in. Vocally, this show is intense. Physically, the dance numbers in this show are non-stop. And all of the hidden messages and character nuances that appeared to me while directing surprised me as well. This turned out to be a bigger musical and a more complex musical than I thought it would be. But I love every minute of it!
Q: I know you probably love all the numbers, but do you have a few that you think will be audience favorites?
That’s really hard for me to say. Each number was carefully blocked and directed to include a little something extra (like a comical prop, or a surprise feature) to keep everything a little unique and different. Any yes, I do LOVE all the numbers in this show. There are also some neat technical elements to the show…including broadcasting the Corny Collins show live for the audience to feel like they are part of the studio audience. We have a giant sized hairspray can that actually sprays on demand, sets that transform on stage and backdrops that will blow your mind. I tried to really pay attention to detail in this show.
Q: You’re busy, so we won’t take up much more of your time. Quick, tell us the basics about performance dates and times and ticket-sales. Oh, and speaking of ticket sales, you’ve generously donated a pair of tickets to a lucky reader of anewscafe.com.
(Readers, if you want to be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment below that includes the statement that you’d like to win a pair of tickets to “Hairspray”. The winner can choose any show time that best fits your schedule, and you can pick up the tickets at the Cascade’s will-call.)
Friday, March 30, 2012
Saturday, March 31, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
Saturday, April 7, 2012
7 p.m. shows with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturdays
Tickets online at www.cascadetheatre.org, or at the box office.
Q: Anything else you’d like us to know?
I really hope that Redding can make it to this show to take a minute and appreciate all the talent this town has to offer. I feel pretty privileged to be able to explore these talents and find their strengths, help them stay active in the arts community and come alive on stage. Yes, even here in Reddimg, we can produce a larger-than-life sized Broadway musical.
Good luck, Jana, to you and your performers. And congratulations to you and Alan on the birth of little Avan. I’ve seen Facebook photos of him, and he’s adorable.
Thanks for the opportunity,Doni.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.