Midtown school’s production of Hairspray ends on a high note

STARS IN THEIR EYES: Emma Spitz, left, Jason Moore and Bil Cho, perform as the lead family, Tracy, Wilbur and Edna Turnblad in Northern Secondary School's adaptation of Hairspray.
STARS IN THEIR EYES: Emma Spitz, left, Jason Moore and Bil Cho perform as the lead family — Tracy, Wilbur and Edna Turnblad — in Northern Secondary School’s adaptation of Hairspray.

The halls of Northern Secondary School were alive after school hours April 15-17 with the sights and sounds of ’60s bubblegum pop, ponytails and beehives.

Students and staff at the home of the Red Knights’ were putting on their rendition of John Waters’ Hairspray — the school’s first musical in eight years.

Tucked in a corridor on closing night were drama teacher and artistic director Melanie Stassis, along with the lead performers Emma Spitz (Tracy Turnblad) and Lucas Tennen (Link Larkin).

There was an energy about them as they readied themselves, in costume, for the final curtain.

A lot of work has gone into Hairspray, Stassis said. It started with the first hints at a production, last April.

“I asked a bunch of teachers if they would be interested in doing this with me, because there’s no way you can do a musical on your own,” she said. “I approached the English department to produce, art to do set design and Benedicte Wiggett, who is a sewer in real life, to do costumes.”

Paul Newman took the role of vocal director, Lesley Bunbury came in as the choreographer, Ene Lomp was the orchestra director and student assistant director-choreographer Isis Lunsky rounded out the lead production crew.

When September rolled around, 250 students auditioned to be in the show.

Spitz and Tennen admitted there was no stage fright for them, and they had an inkling of which characters they wanted to play.

“I was preparing for it — memorizing my monologue, practising the songs,” Spitz said.

After a two-step audition process, the two were awarded their roles and, keeping in the tradition of Hairspray, Edna Turnblad was played by a young man. Bil Cho got the part.

Keeping the theme of humour going, Spitz and Tennen only smiled when asked if the actors were planning any closing-night hijinks.

“If we do …” Spitz started, voice trailing off.

“…We’re not telling,” Tennen finished.

Stassis let out a laugh, and maintained a director’s role.

“I don’t want to know, because we have a lot of people coming tonight and we want a great, perfect show,” she said. “I’m a big everything-has-to-be-rehearsed-before-it-goes-on-stage, and if it isn’t rehearsed it doesn’t work.”

Still, Stassis kept the mood light, and shared the emotions of putting on the “epic” musical.

“We just feel like a huge family, and we’re so proud of everybody and how much work they’ve put into it,” she said.

After the performance, which earned a standing ovation from a packed Northern auditorium, Lunsky admitted it was the school’s largest production in its 85-year history.

That is pretty epic.