Courier Journal Covers CenterStage’s Hairspray

[Written by Ken Neuhauser]

As artistic director for CenterStage at the Jewish Community Center, John R. Leffert always brings unique, clever and at times unexpected directorial twists and turns to his productions. Anyone who has seen “Seussical: The Musical,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Little Lame Prince,” “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Steel Magnolias” can attest to that.

For the current production of “Hairspray,” which is winding down at the center, Leffert not only directs the musical but brings a unique, clever and unexpected twist to one of the characters. He plays shy laundress Edna Turnblad, the mother of Tracy, the show’s plus-size heroine who is out to become famous and change the world.

When Tracy auditions for a local teenage dance show, “The Corny Collins Show,” she is initially rejected because of her heftiness, but she eventually lands a part and dances her way into the hearts of the public and teenage heartthrob Link Larkin. This throws a kink in the plans of TV producer Velma Von Tussle, who has been angling to showcase her daughter instead.

A turning point for Tracy occurs when she learns to dance from Seaweed, an African-American teenager who Tracy learns is not allowed to be a regular on “The Corny Collins Show” because of his race.
Remaining performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

diences are going to have a blast and be moved at the same time,” Leffert said. “When Motormouth, played by Tymika Skaggs, sings ‘I Know Where I’ve Been,’ there won’t be a dry eye in the house.”

Other showstoppers are “Good Morning Baltimore,” “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and “I Can Hear the Bells.”

And what about the Leffert portraying Tracy’s mother?

“I quit acting about nine years ago, and it’s great to return to the stage in this dream role,” he said. “It’s really been fun.”

Tickets are $18. Call (502) 459-0660. The Jewish Community Center is at 3600 Dutchmans Lane.

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