5th Avenue Theatre Parade Hairspray Anything Goes 1776

writing: articles, sales copy, and editing


client: The 5th Avenue Theatre
project: Hairspray Articles

Hairspray was a brand-new production that underwent changes daily. It was difficult to write the kind of detailed synopsis to which 5th Avenue audiences were accustomed.

Although the show has since changed, this is the synopsis we published in April, 2002. To minimize possible differences, we kept it brief and gave it a fuzzy ending.


Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Based on the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters

A Detailed Synopsis

Baltimore, 1962 — Tracy Turnblad has big hair, an even bigger heart, and one dream: to dance, dance, dance (Good Morning Baltimore). She and her best friend Penny faithfully watch "The Corny Collins Show," a local TV dance program, and moon over the show's heartthrob Link Larkin, an aspiring Elvis. Link is dating Amber Von Tussle, also on "Corny Collins" (The Nicest Kids In Town). Since Amber's overbearing mother Velma runs the show, Amber is featured in all the camera shots and leads the Miss Teenage Hairspray competition.

Today, Corny makes two important announcements: the show's upcoming special will be broadcast nationwide; and a spot has opened for a new dancer. Tracy jumps at the chance to audition. She is encouraged by her father Wilbur, but her mother Edna forbids it, fearing that everyone will laugh at her size. Tracy's frustration is mirrored by Penny, whose fanatically strict mother Prudy believes that Corny's show "rots the brain," and Amber, who seethes as Velma drills her on dance steps. The three girls separately plan to defy their mothers (Mama, I'm A Big Girl Now).

When Tracy arrives at the TV studio to audition, an accidental brush with Link sparks romantic fantasies (I Can Hear The Bells). Velma provides a ruder reception: Tracy is insulted and dismissed before she's given the chance to dance (Velma's Cha Cha). Wilbur offers consolation by reminding her of times when he overcame obstacles (Positivity).

In detention, Tracy meets Seaweed, the son of Motormouth Maybelle, the "Corny Collins" Negro Day DJ. He teaches her to channel her emotions through dance steps and she quickly picks up a whole new set of moves.

Seaweed encourages Tracy to show off at a sock hop hosted by Corny: she is a sensation. Impressed, Corny immediately signs her on to his show (The New Girl In Town). Link is also drawn to Tracy and kisses her — on air — during a dance (It Takes Two). Tracy's popularity soars overnight and soon she's the top candidate for the Miss Teenage Hairspray title, much to Amber and Velma's dismay (Velma's Cha-Cha, reprise). Edna is thrilled at Tracy's success and they celebrate on the town with Tracy's fans (Welcome to the 60s).

Tracy introduces Seaweed to Penny during gym class and an immediate attraction is apparent. Meanwhile, the jealous Amber spreads nasty rumors about Tracy and knocks her out during dodgeball. Appalled by Amber's behavior, Link revives Tracy and the two join Seaweed and Penny for a record party at Motormouth Maybelle's music shop on the "wrong" side of town (Run And Tell That).

Tracy learns that Velma has opposed racial integration on "The Corny Collins Show" and plans a demonstration unless Motormouth and her daughter Little Inez are allowed to appear on the program's Mother-Daughter Day. Link, worried that this civil disobedience will derail his singing career, apologetically abandons Tracy. Heartbroken, Tracy vows to carry on with her plan, imploring Edna to join her. However, Edna is too insecure about her own weight to appear on the Mother-Daughter show with Tracy. Motormouth and Tracy reassure her (Big, Blonde And Beautiful).

The protesters march to the TV studio, a riot breaks out and everyone is sent to jail (The Big Dollhouse). The Von Tussles plot to keep Tracy incarcerated, even after Wilbur posts bail. Tracy is undaunted (Good Morning Baltimore, reprise). Wilbur tries to boost the fretful Edna's spirits (Timeless to Me).

Will Tracy find a way to integrate "Corny Collins?" Can she win the Miss Teenage Hairspray crown with a prison record? Will she win Link's heart? And can she do it all without denting her 'do? Welcome to the 60s!