Headliners present Hairspray Jr. at the Port Theatre on May 23. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo youth theatre group presenting ‘Hairspray Jr.’

Headliners director and actors agree musical’s message continues to resonate

Although it takes place during the civil rights era, the musical Hairspray has a message that resonates in the present day, says Headliners artistic director Manda Chelmak.

The 2002 musical takes place in early ’60s Baltimore and follows overweight teenager Tracy Turnblad who gets a part on a segregated TV dance show, becomes an overnight sensation and successfully advocates for the program’s integration.

“I think it’s an important time to revisit that topic of racism and cultural division,” Chelmak said, adding, “We need a reminder this topic isn’t so weird to cover right now.”

On Thursday, May 23, Chelmak is directing the Headliners production of Hairspray Jr., the condensed version of the musical, at the Port Theatre. Aside from their evening performance, the cast will also perform a private matinée for schools.

Even though the musical ends with the breaking down of racial barriers, the actors agree that racism is a persistent problem worth discussing.

Katie Whalen, 13, who plays Seaweed J. Stubbs, love interest of Tracy’s best friend Penny, said that it’s important to recognize that people continue to face prejudice and exclusion based on their appearance.

“They’ll ignore what happened in the past and they’ll just act like it never happened at all … so I think it’s important for people to know that it still does happen,” she said.

The production is in partnership with the Port Theatre. While some cast members have performed at the venue in the past, for others, including 12-year-old Jade McConville, who plays Penny, it will be a new experience.

“[I’m] really, really excited because I’ve never been in a theatre that big,” she said. “They’re usually small theatres. [It’s] really cool because I have a main role this time so I can do it in a big theatre.”

WHAT’S ON … Headliners presents Hairspray Jr. at the Port Theatre, 125 Front St., on Thursday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $12.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Man appealing conviction for drive-by shooting attempt in Nanaimo

Armaan Singh Chandi was sentenced to nine years in jail in B.C. Supreme Court last month

Nanaimo, Lantzville, Parksville, Qualicum partner on studying child care needs

Union of B.C. Municipalities provides $125,000 grant

June has been Nanaimo’s driest on record so far

Predictions for rain this week could bring temporary relief

RCMP make arrest following break-in at Parksville’s Log Cabin General Store

Police credit tips from public for helping with case

Foot ferry service in Nanaimo won’t happen this summer

Island Ferries says it still needs to secure funding

VIDEO: Tributes flow on 10th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death

Jackson received a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009. He died at age 50

Pedestrian struck by vehicle in Stz’uminus dies from injuries

A male pedestrian was struck in the early morning of June 25

Thieves steal tents meant for Nanaimo school’s Grade 7 camping trip

Businesses, staff and parents ensure trip goes on

Vancouver Island woman assaulted after confronting thief

RCMP warn residents to call for police assistance

Campers hailed heroes in rock face rescue at Vancouver Island provincial park

The campers quickly noticed the man in distress and jumped into the river to swim across.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Suggested street names bizarre

Letter writer would be mortified to live on any of Lantzville councillor’s bizarrely named streets

Island Health issues safer drug-use tips ahead of music festival season

Health authority aims to reduce overdose risks at festivals

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Most Read