Monday’s show marks the fourth time the public performing arts school- established by musician, painter and Astoria native Tony Bennett in 2001- participates in the showcase, held at Times Square’s Shubert Theatre.
Owning and operating 17 Broadway theatres, as well as six off-Broadway venues, the Shubert Organization is the largest conglomerate in the area. It is also the oldest professional theatre company in the nation, having been around since the start of the 20th Century.
Each year, the Shubert Festival celebrates five outstanding student productions, chosen from a selection of more than 25 high schools across the city. For pupils with the dreams of taking their craft to the professional level, the event provides a glimpse into a potential career on Broadway.
“There is a certain magic that is present on the day of the show,” says FSSA’s director for “Hairspray” Jamie Cacciola-Price, “where students rise to the occasion and live up to the legacy of the performance venue."
The high school’s rendition of the iconic musical, which opened last Thursday, features costumes, props and a set used on the National Tour of “Hairspray.” A company of 97 students make up the musical’s cast, pit and crew.
Over the summer, students were given their parts and scripts so that they could be off-book by the first day of the 2019-2020 school year. According to Cacciola-Price, the cast rehearsed daily in class and after school, in addition to on the weekends.
“Attention to process, work ethic and professionalism is a staple of our program," she explains.
Finding a production that creates a dialogue between the show’s material and issues of the present world is a primary concern for FSSA staff. “Hairspray,” a story that tackles race relations and segregation in 1960s Baltimore, was chosen for its resonating message and comedic relief.
Through researching the Civil Rights Movement and using their own contemporary lens of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation, students were able to identify a critical connection between past and present.
"During a tough political climate, “Hairspray” celebrates the physical and racial diversity that represents our city and our school community,” says Maddie Greenberg, a senior and vocal major at FSSA.
FSSA’s run of “Hairspray” continues with four more performances at the school’s Tony Bennett Concert Hall over the course of this weekend. Showtimes are at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.