In a word, Gibbons Drama’s production of “Hairspray” is phenomenal. It is, however, phenomenal on many different levels.
First, it is the department’s first-time production of the Broadway musical and it ends a season of first-time mainline productions. (Don’t fret! Still to come this season are one-acts and the NextGen freshman production of "Working," also a first.)
For Drama Artistic Director Kevin Ferguson “Hairspray” also is a creative challenge in terms of “the sheer size, scope, and volume of the undertaking, as well as the resources, capital, and time it requires.” From the acting, choreography, and music to the scenery, costumes, and lighting – everything is “grand in scale,” he says.
To be sure, 40 student actors are in the cast, among the largest in a long time. Additionally, some 40 or more students – from musicians to technicians - are involved in the play, which opened on Friday (March 22) and played to a full house, each day of its two-day performance.
“Everyone knows what needs to be done to make this play successful,” Drama Artistic Director Kevin Ferguson says.
While the play is joyful and exciting, Ferguson points out that its serious underlining message of integration, cultural awareness and the need for harmony in our world is as fitting today as it was in the 1960s. “Hairspray is talking about a dream of what our country could become, and that struggle is ongoing,” Ferguson explains. “It is not about getting what YOU want, but about … taking the gifts we have been given and doing something for the greater good,” he says and asks: “Doesn’t that reflect our school’s mission of faith, service, and leadership; isn’t that Catholic in theory and metaphor?”
To handle delivering that message masterfully requires the right cast, which Ferguson said had evolved over the last four years. Many of the students – from the 13 in the principal roles as well as those in the giant ensemble - had worked together many times before, breathing life into Ferguson’s long-held description of Gibbons Drama as an ensemble-driven community of creative leaders.
“Everyone knows what needs to be done to make this play successful,” Ferguson says, his voice rising with excitement.
Having seen the play from a front-row vantage point I can attest not only to its success, but also to the precision, dedication, and talent each one of the students shared with the audience. There are so many toe-tapping and show-stopping numbers, funny lines, and poignant moments that put a smile on your face and, at the same time, melt your heart.
The musical will be performed in the school’s Mainstage Theater again on March 28,29, 30 at 7:30 and on March 31 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more information visit www.cghsnc.org/gibbonsdrama