Hannah Block Second Street Stage
120 S. 2nd Street
Fri. – Sun., 11/12 – 14, 19 – 21 & 26 – 28, 8 p.m. or Sun. matinees, 3 p.m.
Kevin Lee-y Green’s name has been in the pages of encore many, many times: as someone featured in our “Emerging Talent 2010” edition but mostly for his indelible footprint left on the local theatre scene. Green continuously acts and dances, choreographs and directs shows all over town. Not long ago, he even created his own production company, TechMoja, which is responsible for bringing 2010’s hit “Jesus Christ Superstar” to the stage just over the summer.
Coming out of a fascinating romp with City Stage’s “Rocky Horror Show,” Green’s not skipping a beat, so to speak, and opening his next hit, the John Waters film classic and Tony-winning stage production of “Hairspray.” Known for its loose-as-a-goose dancing and R&B-shimmying sounds of the 1960s, the play’s underlying themes aren’t without an impressionable political message: Racism blows!
“Hairspray” covers the a decade where segregation was the norm, and pop music and R&B moved all listeners, no matter their color. It was a time when dancing meant everything—only the “with whom” became problematic.
We sat down with Kevin Lee-y Green to find out why he chose “Hairspray” as TechMoja’s latest venture and how the cast is coming along in creating a colorful show.
encore: Why did you decide to do “Hairspray” as part of 2010’s final productions, and what about the show do you think has people gravitate toward it?
Kevin Lee-y Green: It’s always been one of my dreams to do this show. As soon as I heard the music from the original Broadway show, I immediately went out and bought what I though was the movie-musical. It turned out to be the original film starring Ricki Lake and Divine. I absolutely got into that one, but still proceeded to buy the movie-musical. Of course, I fell in love with that one, too. I knew from then on, that as soon as the rights were released, that this was one show I couldn’t let pass me by.
I think the reason why people gravitate toward it is because of it’s light-hearted way of delivering a heavy message. The themes in “Hairspray” are a very good example of the era in which it is set. The 1960s were a time of segregation and demonstration. The most important thing about the musical is it teaches us about loving one another and ourselves, teamwork and most of all acceptance.
e: Tell me about the cast. How are they morphing into their roles and do you have a favorite character?
KLG: The cast consists of some familiar faces and some fresh new faces. The role of Tracy Turnblad will be played by Sara McBrayer; Link Larkin will be played by Tim Marriott; Seaweed will be played by Zeickia Ledwell;Penny Lou Pingleton will be played by Capers Beddoes; Amber Von Tussel will be played Laura Teachey; Edna Turnblad will be played by Matthew Cope; Motormouth Maybelle willl be played by Dierdre Parker; Velma Von Tussel will be played by Amber Sheets.
They all are morphing into these characters with so much confidence and understanding of each one. I personally love every character in this show, because I have met someone like each one of these citizens of Baltimore. As far as the audience is concerned, they each have their own favorite choice, but it all boils down to the story. Everyone loves the story.
e: How do you think themes in the show apply to our 21st-century living standards?
KLG: As the song “Good morning, Baltimore” says, “I know there’s a place where I belong.” It’s not an uncommon saying. [Racism and prejudices still exist,] even with the election of our first black president.
e: How are you choreographing the dancing scenes? Any inspirations you’re pulling from that you can share with us?
KLG: Everyone knows that “Hairpsray” is a show partially about the dancing. My choreography pulls from traditional dances of the period, such as “The Madison,” but as always, I dislike the predictable. So, I’ve taken the given movement of the period and added my own flair to make it eye-pleasing, and easier to relate to for the younger audience members.
e: Who’s designing costumes and sets? Can you tell us what’s in store visually?
KLG: Costume Design is being headed up by Johnathan Cope, while the set design is being done by Lance Howell. Progress on both is going great. Visually, costume-wise, you can expect many styles from the 1960s. As far as any more details, you have to come and see the show to find out.
e: How will the TechMoja version of “Hairspray” differ from previous performances?
KLG: First and foremost, I have re-vamped the choreography. The actors have been encouraged to make honest choices, and there’s certainly a whole new flavor.
e: Fnally, the music: Who’s directing? What makes the music so important to the play, in your opinion?
KLG: Musical direction is being done by Cindy Hospadales, and she is doing a magnificent job. The harmony is tight and the soloists sound incredible! I think the most intriguing thing about this music is that it’s just fun!