The countdown has begun. A total of 44 days remains until Nov. 8, opening night. The cast and crew have 40 more rehearsal days.
Before those numbers gained meaning to the cast of “Hairspray,” every member had to go through a process that spanned more than two weeks: auditions.
A total of 67 students auditioned for the musical, which co-director Rees Pugh said ties the 1994 production of “Hair” for the largest number of students auditioned.
The 55-member cast is also the largest ever.
Auditions began Aug. 29 and continued for the five following school days.
Students had to prepare three auditions: singing, acting and dancing.
The script and score were sent out in late June, giving students two months to prepare.
On the first day of auditions, students entered the choir room for the singing portion.
On the second day, the actors performed one of a group of scenes selected for auditions.
The final days of auditions took place in the dance studio.
Students spent two days working on their dance auditions.
They learned their steps on the first day, and performed them on the second. The choreography was for the song “You Can’t Stop The Beat.”
Molly Chapman ’14 entered the process a veteran, having performed in school productions since ninth grade.
“I have always loved musical theatre and have been doing shows for a long time,” she said. “When I came to Harvard-Westlake, it just felt natural to audition for the musical and I have auditioned for it
every year since. This year I knew I had to audition because it was my senior year, the last time I would be in a show with all my friends. Plus, ‘Hairspray’ is such a fun show.”
Chapman auditioned for the lead role of Tracy Turnblad.
“I felt like I was best suited for it,” she said. “I thought I could do a good job with this one.”
Chapman thought that she did best in the dance audition crediting the freer nature of the process.
In the singing and acting portions of the auditions there are more room for mistakes and misinterpretations, she said.
When the cast list was emailed on Sept. 9 to the students who had auditioned, Chapman learned she had recieved the role of Tracy.
A large focus of the audition process for Pugh is creating a fair playing field for all students.
Because of the repetition of students who audition for shows, there is a misconception among students that the cast of shows is predetermined.
“The shows are not pre-cast,” said Pugh. “It seems like we may see a lot of the same 15 or 20 kids because they come to us with a certain skill set that is pretty strong.”
He also stressed that seniority is rarely taken into account when selecting students for certain roles.
“We try to walk into the room with a blank slate and see whose auditions jump out at us,” Pugh said.
Aiyana White ’14, who has also performed in many Harvard-Westlake productions, auditioned for the role of Little Inez, singing “Run and Tell That.”
“I chose it because Justin Carr ’14, [who died last year], was always casting the show with me as that part,” she said. “When I actually read the script, I thought it would be a lot of fun.”
White described the audition process as fun.
White was also cast for the role she auditioned for.
Pugh hopes that “Hairspray” will be a celebration of what Carr stood for.
Carr wanted to have more students included in the musicals.
“We all gain by including,” Pugh said.
“Even though [Carr] won’t be here to perform with us,” Chapman said, “we will all be performing with him in our hearts, striving to be the best we can be.”