‘60s charm on stage this week

Published 10:29 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Suffolk students have been rehearsing alongside other Hampton Roads actors for fabulous performances under Norfolk stage lights this week.

TADA School of Performing Arts will present “Hairspray JR.” this Friday through Sunday at the Kroc Center in Norfolk, 1401 Ballentine Blvd. The Friday show will be at 7 p.m. Saturday will feature shows at 3:30 and 6 p.m., and there will be a Sunday show at 4 p.m.


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About 60 students across Hampton Roads are split into two casts for the performances due to the smaller venue and cast of characters. Michelle Pudwill-Shiels, owner and artistic director of the school, has been aided by assistant directors Theresa Romanelli and Alyssa Harney.

Pudwill-Shiels explained that having two casts allows each student to have time in the spotlight.

“Every child needs to have a chance to act on the stage and not just be in the background,” she said.

“Hairspray JR.” is a family-friendly adaption of the Tony Award-winning Broadway production “Hairspray” with the same brand of humor, romance and catchy songs.

Set in 1962, lead character Tracy Turnblad’s dream of dancing in the popular “Corny Collins Show” is realized through vibrant costumes and set design pulled from an era when color TVs first shined in homes across America.

“People like to say that being in show transports you to a different time, but this show really does,” said Nansemond-Suffolk Academy sophomore Jack Hutchinson. “You get into the role on stage, and you really start feeling it.”

Carmen Del Vecchio, a 15-year-old freshman at Nansemond River High School, will play Turnblad, whom she describes as a confident, spunky young girl.

“She’s a little overweight, but she never lets it bring her down,” she said. “All she wants to do is perform at ‘Corny Collins Show.’ It’s her dream.”

She said she has enjoyed exploring different aspects of herself through this role.

“I’m a bit of a shy person, so being able to bring out a different side of me gives me a lot of confidence,” she said.

Fellow NRHS freshman Cameron Lindsey, 15, felt the same spark with her character, Motormouth Maybelle, a DJ and black woman fighting for young black performers to be featured as equals in the “Corny Collins Show.”

“She’s so cool and strong, and I love to bring that out with her character,” Cameron said.

The young actors have become more confident with each note, twirl and leap. Virginia student Carter Holst, who has won numerous awards and national titles, choreographed the elaborate dance routines for the production.

Suffolk homeschool student Zachary Luyo, 17, plays a lead love interest and has felt the effects of production quality during rehearsals.

“I’ve been in a lot of productions — even in bigger theaters — but the atmosphere you get in here with the music and staging really motivates you to make the crowd feel as excited as you are about the show,” Zachary said.

He said the show is a good escape from the stress and worry of modern living.

“People in this day and age get run down with life and look for something to lift them up, and I feel like ‘Hairspray’ does that,” he said.

Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door. Call 718-7034 or email tadaschoolofperformingarts@yahoo.com for tickets and other information.