To the editor:
The Lawrence Arts Center does a youth musical each summer. This time, it was “Hairspray,” a high-energy show about an American Bandstand look-alike, whose “nicest kids in town” danced daily in a not-nearly-integrated TV studio in 1962 Baltimore. The LAC version was exceptional. Had there been mikes enough for the entire vocal ensemble and money for better sets (the costumes borrowed from the cast’s grandparents were terrific), this would have been perfect.
Audience members concerned about where Lawrence’s youths are headed were put at ease — when they weren’t clapping and shouting their approval. The direction was true to the time, yet imaginative, and all of the actors were first-rate. But Bridget Casad, who played the teen with a dream from the rough side of town, was riveting. Tom Hanks could have canvassed the entire Midwest and not cast a better Tracy. Bridget delivered lines across a stunning emotional range and danced with abandon. But, wow, can she sing!
Backstopping the rehearsals were classes, panel discussions and breakout sessions about the time and its troubles. Only in Lawrence would the cast get that from the likes of Bill Tuttle, now retired from Kansas University’s American Studies department but still the nation’s pre-eminent scholar of race relations of the period, who attended Saturday’s performance as LAC’s honored guest. As excited about the show as their parents, Bill was quick to compliment the cast on the excellence of their questions and how quickly they seemed to “get it.”