On Tuesday, March 15th, twelve students and four adult cast members of Lost Nation Theater’s upcoming show, Hairspray, were gathered in LNT’s staging space. Tuesday, March 15, was the first day of “two weeks of prep workshops to build skills and provide context for the show,” said Director Kathleen Keenan in an email.
The workshop started with an introductory circle, then choreographer Taryn Noelle led the group in a warm-up. Though the vast majority of the crowd was high-school-aged, the group was very focused and attentive.
Afterwards, Noelle began teaching various 60’s era moves and dances like “the Mashed Potato” and “the Freddy.”
“I’m scared I’m gonna kick someone!” said U32 sophomore Libby Belitsos. The group, although new to Noelle’s style and each other, had the concentration and determination of an exemplary cast.
Hairspray; a big, “irresistibly upbeat musical” about unexpected love, acceptance, and standing up for others, will be on the LNT stage in the coming months.
Keenan says, “[…]the show has teeth. It explores issues of social and racial justice, body image and transgender. All of us at LNT are hoping the show can be a catalyst for community discussions.” Keenan adds that she and her team, “are in the process of reaching out to partner organizations to create auxiliary events and post-show discussions.”
Asked about the reasoning behind choosing this musical, Keenan said, “A real inspiration for me was a chance to share one of the show’s central messages […] ‘Don’t be afraid of someone just because they look different from you.’”
Choreographer Taryn Noelle brought the idea to the table originally, Keenan says. She also views it as an “incredible opportunity […] for so many students who have ‘grown up’ in our training programs, and other respected training programs.”
As to what’s different about Hairspray from other shows Keenan’s directed, “the amount of collaboration and crossover needed between director & choreographer is the most I’ve ever done. Taryn and I have worked together quite a bit over the last few years, so I know that will be a joy.”
Noelle notes the 1960’s dances featured in the show are “a really nice blend of somewhat natural movement, filled with a ton of exuberant energy and being totally derivative of the music. These dances, I believe, are meant to come from the music – so my job, perhaps here more than ever before, is to listen, and listen hard, to the music.”
U-32 senior Marissa Mattogno says she is ecstatic about the dancing in this show. “Swing- this era- has always been my favorite, and I have always wished I can do it, and now I’m learning to do it, and I’m so excited.”
Matthew Grant Winston, age 56, confessed that dancing, in contrast, will be a challenge. “Dancing is difficult for me, so I hope by the time we get this thing up that I’m actually looking like a pretty coherent dancer. I’m more than double everybody’s ages here, except for the adults, so I’ve got a long way to catch up on that,” says Winston. Although, he is looking forward to being in shape, he said with a laugh.
Altan Cross, age 17, expressed similar concerns regarding dancing. “It’s going to be really challenging, because- I mean, it’s crazy fun, but it’s also crazy fast.” “Hairspray is one of my favorite tracks of any Broadway show; the music is so fun to sing,” he added.
Spaulding junior Autumn has performed in Lost Nation Theater’s Youth shows since she was 8 years old, so she is thrilled to be working on a mainstage musical, particularly one of her favorites.
Gabriella, a sophomore from Sharon Academy, said she heard about auditions for Hairspray through friends living in the Montpelier area. This, she added, is her first musical ever, so she’s excited to work with new people.
Director Kathleen Keenan says she anticipates difficulties to come in the form of, “Work[ing] effectively and efficiently to not just ‘get through’ all the music and dances and get them done.” Keenan adds that she wants to “bring out all the nuance and really take ourselves, and therefore the audience, on a journey. There’s not just one story going on – there’s many, and we want them all heard!”
Noelle said she is excited to work with this cast of teens and adults. “From what I already have seen and observed, they are the fuel and the inspiration for this work.”
“I am also excited for what I know will be all the movement discoveries and surprises that come along the way.” She added. “Those unplanned awakenings- just by the act of listening and collaborating and being in the moment- that is exciting!”
“The show asks us to think about and be aware of connection – and I find that an exciting place to be… [It’s] about yearning, about dreams, about aspiring. It’s human – full of falling in love, rejection, overcoming obstacles,” Keenan said.
Hairspray will feature actors from New York City in lead roles, with Vermont students and professionals in supporting cast roles. The show opens April 21st, and tickets are 10$-30$.