By Seth Daniel
The students of the Warren-Prescott Elementary School will embark on their most ambitious drama project yet in putting on ‘Hairspray’ the musical for their 10th show since Music Director Olivia Thompson arrived 12 years ago and started the series.
This time around, there will even be a special performance for the community on Friday night, March 10, to raise funds for the school and the drama program to defray the costs of new materials, such as lighting that was purchased. Mayor Martin Walsh was scheduled to attend the Friday performance, as was community partner RSM Accounting in City Square.
This week, rehearsals were ongoing and intense as students from third to eighth grade practices dancing and singing and saying their lines in the foot-tapping musical that challenges the racial attitudes and segregation in 1960s Baltimore.
Sets were painted during February vacation and costumes were accumulated through a collaboration of parents, teachers and volunteers.
Thompson said she was going to take a year off, but there was a talented group of kids that were likely going to be graduating this year.
“You have to strike while the iron’s hot,” she said. “In this show, you have to have the right kids and if everyone I had in mind auditioned, I felt we would have the right cast for ‘Hairspray.’ It took a little bit of encouragement, but all the kids I had hoped auditioned and we decided to go for it.”
Taking the lead role of Tracy Turnblad is Francesca Baker, who has been in several Warren Prescott productions before.
“My first WP play was ‘Peter Pan’ and I was the Lost Boy who killed Wendy, but that was just Broadway Day,” she said. “In second grade I was Mary Poppins in Broadway Day. In the third grade I was Dorothy in the WP play ‘Emerald City.’ Last year, in the Fifth Grade, I was Pepper and Star to Be in the WP play ‘Annie.’ My favorite part of the being Tracy Turnblad in ‘Hairspray’ is singing all of her songs and the fact that I get to be in the play with all of my friends.”
Some of those friends include Dante Russo (Edna Turnblad), Austin Sa (Wilbur Turnblad), Ivan Fortin Belobokov (Link Larkin), Destiny Prioleau (Motormouth Maybelle), Colby Soutter (Corny Collins), Christopher Clarke (Seaweed Stubbs), Hazel Collier (Amber Von Tussle), Nadine Johnson (Penny Pingleton), Madison Chiappa (Velma Von Tussle), Suriyah Dujour (Little Inez), Frida Swallow (Prudy Pingleton) and Gabriel Feinberg (Harriman Spritzer).
Samuel Quintin, 11, is also appearing in the play in his first year at Warren Prescott after moving over from the Blackstone Elementary in the South End. There, he played Willy Wonka, and said he is excited to take the role of Gilbert in Maybelle’s shop.
“This play is trying to make a statement against segregation through dancing and music,” he said. “It teaches that segregation was very bad for people who are of color and people who are not of color. That’s what I think this play is about.”
Thompson said, indeed, the material in the play is heavy for an elementary school, and some things are edited a bit. However, the message against segregation remains. Thompson said it was something the kids at the school wanted to do; she said they wanted to bring a message to the community while also entertaining.
“The older kids especially are excited to do a play with such a strong message,” she said. “The plays we have done in the past were very good, but didn’t have a strong social message. These kids really enjoy having the opportunity to make a difference and send a strong message with their art. I’m glad we can give them the opportunity to do that at this elementary age.”
Tickets to the Thursday, Saturday and Sunday shows are $10 for cast family and public. Public sales will take place this week (M-F) in school lobby from 8:15 a.m. – 8:45 a.m., and 45 minutes before the shows. Cash or check only.