Hairspray on stage in Rhinebeck

Photo of Edna (Bill Ross), Tracy (Esme Hyman), and Wilbur (David Foster) of Hairspray by Joanne ContrePhoto of Edna (Bill Ross), Tracy (Esme Hyman), and Wilbur (David Foster) of Hairspray by Joanne Contreni

Though it opens at the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck on Friday, Hairspray has had many stops along the way. Written and directed by enigmatic icon John Waters, the early-‘60s-set story about teenager Tracy Turnblad first appeared onscreen in 1988. The story was adapted as a musical for Broadway in 2002, and a film version of that was released in 2007.

That brings us up to speed and around to director Kevin Archambault, a Center for Performing Arts veteran with a knack for musical theater. If all goes according to plan, Archambault said, his version will stay true to the spirit of Waters’ original film while seamlessly incorporating the music from the stage show.


“I’ve always been a fan of the Waters film,” said Archambault. “His work is…it’s not quirky, it’s just excellent. I listened to the CD of the musical version, and I thought it was right on; I thought the important parts stuck. But what the new film kind of forgot about was part of the joy and spontaneity and impromptu decisions of this girl – that she wanted to change history. That’s what I loved about the Waters film.”

The history Turnblad wanted to change was seeking to improve racial integration in Baltimore, and she did so as her own star rose as a teen dancer on The Corny Collins Show. The story was a homage to Waters’ own memories of growing up – though, thanks to the cast of the production in Rhinebeck, Archambault said that he feels that it remains relevant in 2012. “I am blessed with an excellent cast,” he said. “They are just truly, truly talented and into the whole process of bringing this story to the stage, and find it not only meaningful but purposeful in these times. I think it’s great.”

Produced by Diana di Grandi of Up in One Productions, Hairspray opens on Friday, February 24 and runs through Sunday, March 11. “They’ve been very kind to me and given me a lot of freedom, and I’m very grateful to Up in One, specifically at the Center for Performing Arts,” Archambault said. “Diana is incredible and has been flexible with my ideas. It’s been nice to have that freedom.”

Friday and Saturday evening performances begin at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinées begin at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $26 for adults and $24 for seniors and children under 12. For more information, visit