In his 1988 film "Hairspray," John Waters took on issues of segregation, body shaming and beehive hairdos within the incongruous confines of a popular teen dance television program in 1960s Baltimore.
That movie spawned a Broadway musical in 2002 that likewise took on some of the biggest, most troublesome topics in society.
The Whetstone Academy of Performing Arts at Whetstone High School will be the next troupe to take on "Hairspray."
"I think for us, we felt we needed something a little edgy that pushed the boundary," said Christopher S. Ray, the school's drama teacher, during a March 12 rehearsal for the musical.
Performances of the Tony-winning show are set for 7 p.m. March 29 and 30, with a matinee scheduled for 2 p.m. March 31.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students. Children ages 5 and younger will be admitted free.
Tickets may be reserved at https://tinyurl.com/whetstonehairspray.
The story revolves around plus-sized teen Tracy Turnblad, who dreams of being on "The Corny Collins Show," then becomes an instant celebrity after mastering dance moves taught to her by a black friend. Tracy uses that fame to try to integrate the popular TV program.
Although the issues addressed are big ones, they're handled in a "bright and cheery" fashion in the musical, said Ray, who added members of the cast have embraced the story.
"They were very excited," Ray said.
"They've really enjoyed it. They're even choreographing some of the numbers themselves."
The cast for the production includes nearly 30 students, and another 20 or so make up the crew, said Ray, who is directing.
"It's going well," he said of rehearsals.
"Of course, a big musical like this is very stressful."
"Hairspray" will break the fourth wall, with cast members interacting with people in the audience in the Whetstone auditorium.
"This whole room is Baltimore," Ray said. "We want them to think they're coming into a world, not entering a theater."
Sophomore Theodosia Yamano, who said she saw the 2007 film remake of "Hairspray," plays Little Inez in the Whetstone production.
"I like how at the end of the whole thing they realize integration is what they should be doing," she said. "It's fun because we learn dancing separately and acting separately, so it's nice to see it all come together."
Aaron Beckhon Jr. has the role of Seaweed J. Stubbs, the character who teaches Tracy her dance moves.
"One thing about it is you have to be able to feel the message in order to be able to convey the message," the junior said.
"I think it's pretty interesting, the dynamics here. You have a group of white kids and a group of black kids and they have to be able to learn separately."
"Especially in today's society, something like this is going to be beneficial," said senior Chan Cunningham, who plays Mr. Pinky.