This story was corrected on Tuesday, July 17. An explanation of the correction follows the story.
It’s 1962 in East Baltimore, when women combed their hair in beehives and girls twirled to the music of TV dance shows in skirts and flat shoes.
The scene also is the setting for the musical “Hairspray,” which the TACTICC community theater group will present over the next two weekends at the 740-seat auditorium at Liberty High School in Eldersburg.
An acronym for The Arts Coming Together in Carroll County, the group is celebrating its fifth year with its biggest production ever.
More than 100 people are involved in the cast, crew and orchestra, with ages ranging from 11 to 55, says Tony Cimino, founder and education director for TACTICC, which in years past has presented “Guys and Dolls,” “Godspell,” “Seussical” and last year’s “High School Musical.”
”It’s the biggest in people, sets, lights, costumes and wigs, 25 of them,” he says.
“We’re really pushing the envelope with this one,” says Cimino, who notes that the two-act musical also is the nonprofit group’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
The group hopes that some of the proceeds will go to funding scholarships for some of TACTICC’s arts education programs.
Originally a movie created by Baltimore filmmaker John Waters in 1988, “Hairspray” was adapted into a Broadway musical in 2002 and then remade as a movie in 2007.
The show tells the story of overweight teenager Tracy Turnblad, played by Rainelle Jochum, who wants to become one of the dancers on the “Corny Collins” afternoon TV show.
The concept was inspired by the “Buddy Deane Show,” similar to “American Bandstand,” which aired in Baltimore from 1957 to 1964.
Thanks to some new steps she learns from some of her African-American classmates, Tracy wins a place on the show and also finally catches the eye of heartthrob Link Larkin, played by Taylor Rieland.
But Tracy soon realizes that the popular dance program is for whites only, with only one date a month reserved for African-American dancers. Thinking this unfair, she decides to take on the station’s management in a push to integrate the show.
She also succeeds in getting her mother Edna, played by Chris Ion in drag, to leave her house, which she has not done because she’s embarrassed about her weight.
Amy del Aguila, 25, portrays Tracy’s best friend, Penny Pingleton, who falls for Seaweed (Marquis Evans), an African-American classmate.
“It’s fun and light-hearted, but at the heart of it is a very serious issue about race and acceptance,” she says, adding that during rehearsals, younger cast members got a chance to quiz some of the older members about the early 1960s, when teenagers danced the Madison and parents collected S&H Green Stamps and redeemed them for gifts.
“There are audience members coming who lived through that era, and we wanted it to be as authentic as possible,” del Aguila says.
Cast members also learned that in real life, the “Buddy Deane Show” was canceled in 1964, the year Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, because the station owner didn’t want to integrate.
Playing Link’s girlfriend, Amber Von Tussle, is actress Katie Haught, 16. Having performed with TACTICC for several years, this will be her first leading role.
“The music, the plot, it’s so energetic,” says Haught, who saw the 2007 movie and also a live production of “Hairspray” at the Hippodrome in Baltimore.
This fall, Haught will move into her junior year at the Baltimore School for the Arts, with the goal of going to New York University and ultimately working in musical theater.
NYU is where Cimino, an Eldersburg native, earned a master’s degree in Drama Therapy. Before that, he earned a bachelor’s in Theatre Arts from McDaniel College.
After college he returned to Eldersburg to become the drama teacher at Liberty High School.
Cimino says part of Tracy’s mission was to create a sense of community, and that also is the mission of TACTICC.
“‘Hairspray’ talks about diversity, race and other issues, but with humor,” he says. “It allows the audience to see them in a positive way.”
In the photo captions, the photographer was not identified. Photos were by Morton Shuman.