students will have community members dancing in their seats this weekend as they present Hairspray, the musical following the escapades of spunky Tracy Turnblad as she encounters and overcomes issues of race, identity and self-confidence in 1960s Baltimore.
The show follows a plump Turnblad as she earns a spot dancing on the local Corny Collins Show and attempts integrating the minority dancers who are normally allowed to dance only on “Colored Day” into the everyday program. This storyline allowed director Jennifer Ibos plenty of teachable moments for the 94 involved BIS students.
“We’ve been dealing a lot with bullying and a lot of bullying towards racism,” said Ibos, who is a BIS guidance counselor. “I felt like this show could [address that issue] along with bullying and self-image and self esteem.”
Ibos said she and the students have discussed the issues of discrimination present in the musical and discrimination at BIS. She used the performance platform for discussions on self-esteem and bullying, which seemed to pay off among cast members.
“We have not had any issues with racism in our show or teasing or bullying,” Ibos said. “Our productions always build this nice little theater family. They stand up for each other and they make new friends.”
She said she hopes students who come to see the show take away some of these important lessons, as well. Already, performers are receiving positive feedback from friends and family, telling them how excited they are to see the show. Ibos said this reflects the hard work the students have put in. She said she’s proud of the students and notices their pride in the production, as well.
While some of the students previously performed in BIS musicals, about 50 percent of the students are taking to the middle school stage for the first time. However, they all work together and support each other, recognizing that there is no small part in theater.
With 15 musical numbers, the show is sure to get the crowd moving. Hairspray is known for its comical characters and upbeat music. Aside from the fun, however, Ibos wants audience members to leave with a couple of takeaways.
“I definitely want them to remember how far we’ve come in history and that you have to look at a person for what they have inside versus what they have on the outside,” Ibos said. “And second I just want people to always believe in themselves and know that when someone tells you, you can’t do something, you have every right to stand up for yourself and to let them know that you have a voice.”
This is the fourth year Ibos has directed a BIS musical, the past three through a financial grant from the Burlingame Community Foundation for Education.
The show, which students have been working on since December, runs Friday, March 23 and Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 25 at 1 p.m. All performances are showing in the BIS auditorium at 1715 Quesada Way. Tickets are $9 and can be purchased online, in the BIS Main Office or at the door.