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ART BEAT: Broadway arrives in Suwanee with 'Hairspray'

Holley Calmes

Holley Calmes

The culture of the '60s has fascinated people for years. Filled with social change, tragedy and upheaval, the '60s also ushered in new ideas that uplifted those who lived through the turmoil. The musical "Hairspray" is a celebration of some of the happier happenings of that decade, and Suwanee Performing Arts is sharing the love on the amphitheater stage in Suwanee's Town Center Park today and Saturday.

The '60s theme will be expanded by the addition of "Rapunzel's Twist," an original mini-musical based on the fairy tale and set to popular music of the '60s. The show starts at 7 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday.

"We are thrilled to be presenting 'Hairspray' to celebrate our fifth anniversary of Broadway in the Park," said Patty Etherton, co-founder and executive director of SPA. "As in previous years, we have assembled some of the best performers, directors, choreographers and musicians in Gwinnett County and the North Georgia area. We anticipate another fantastic weekend of shows to benefit our arts program."

Not only are the shows good experience for the young performers, SPA has been holding an auction to raise money for the school. This unusual and very clever activity is titled "M.O.S.H.," also known as "Most Outrageous Seat in the House." The highest bidder will see the show from down front and center, in a virtual outdoor living room complete with overstuffed sofas, a coffee table, and all the comforts of home for six to eight people. The furniture has been donated for the event by Outrageous Bargains. Online bidding has been going on since July 1.

Another way that SPA is raising money through this event is by simply asking for donations.

"We will be selling 50/50 raffle tickets and passing the hat," Etherton said. "Be aware that you might be asked to post bail for our delinquent 'Hairspray' cast. If you would pay $10 to see a movie we are sure you will be happy to contribute toward this evening of energetic entertain."

"Hairspray" is a musical that will be enjoyed by all members of the family. The setting is 1960s Baltimore where change is in the air. The main character, a lovable and larger-than-life adolescent girl named Tracy Turnblad, manages to vanquish a reigning high school "princess," integrate a television show, and find true love while singing and dancing all the while. And of course, she does it all without mussing her hair.

"'Hairspray's' message of love and acceptance is perfectly embodied in our leading lady, Nichole Ojeda-Johns," Etherton said. "A newcomer to SPA, Nichole showed up on the scene, happy to dance in the wings, thrilled with any role we gave her and just wanting to be a part of the show. How like Tracy."

"Our world is often times judgmental and self righteous. 'Hairspray' shows us in a comical way how ugly humans can be to each other. Though the story is set in the 1960s people are even more self-centered and self-serving today."

This is the fifth year for Suwanee's Broadway in the Park program. The event usually draws approximately 4,000 for the two shows combined and is the biggest fundraiser of the year for SPA.

For more information, visit the website at www.suwaneeperformingarts.org or call 770-821-7654.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.