Instead of sticking to its previous formula of producing two different musicals running for three weeks each, the Summer Theatre of New Canaan decided this year to build momentum and audiences with one big show running for eight weeks.
"Hairspray" opens in New Canaan's Waveny Park on Saturday, June 21, giving new life to the 2002 best-musical Tony winner about a spunky 1960s Baltimore girl named Tracy Turnblad and her determination to get on the most popular TV teen dance show in the city.
The musical, based on a 1988 John Waters film, turned out to be one of the biggest Broadway hits of the new century, running for more than six years.
"We found in past seasons that the good word-of-mouth would take a while to spread and by the time that happened we'd be in our last week and we couldn't extend, because we'd have another show coming in," executive director Ed Libonati said.
In past seasons, the STONC would do one modern musical and one classic -- last year, the shows were "Grease" and "South Pacific."
"Hairspray," which runs through Aug. 3, has proven to be so popular with audiences of all ages that it already qualifies in both of those categories, Libonati noted.
"It's a fun show that also deals with some serious issues," Libonati said of Tracy becoming active in the civil rights movement after she joins the fight to allow black teenagers on the segregated TV show.
"The show is centered on a girl who never expects to be an inspiration to other kids."
The 1960s rock-influenced pop score appeals to older theatergoers who were around at the time, as well as the young people who can identify with Tracy and her friends.
"It has '60s nostalgia, which everyone seems to connect with, and it's just a great time. Ninety percent of our tickets are bought by women and I know that in some cases they drag their husbands along, but I think those guys are going to be very happy, too.
"The songs are relentless. This is a show with 15 production numbers and when you have a cast like we do, they're going to make the hair on the back of your head stand up," Libonati said of the mostly New York City company that made the cut after hundreds of performers were seen at auditions.
The Summer Theatre of New Canaan, Waveny Park, is presenting three children's shows on weekends this season -- "Merrilee Mannerly," which opened June 14 and runs through July 19; "The Little Mermaid Jr." from June 28 through Aug. 3; and "Charlotte's Web" July 12 through Aug. 3. Libonati stressed, however, that the main stage shows are always family friendly.
"If they're not G-rated, they're definitely no more than PG," he said.
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