Set in 1960s Baltimore, the feel-good musical tells the story of the fight to integrate The Corny Collins Show. But racial issues aren't the only form of discrimination Hairspray tackles. Overweight white protagonist Tracy Turnblad faces some prejudices herself when she tries to get on the teenage dance show. Her character isn't afraid of a showdown, though, and as she gets bolder, so does her hair. She undergoes five or six wig changes throughout the musical, which features a song called "Big, Blond and Beautiful."
Tracy's mother, Edna, is always played by a man in drag (the indomitable Harvey Fierstein won a Tony for the part in 2003), and her inner life is also reflected by her hair. Edna starts out the story as a shy stay-at-home mom. But as the story continues, "she becomes more and more fashionable, and her wigs become taller and more exotic."
Almost all the performers have some sort of hairpiece, and many of the major characters wear several throughout the show. Marcelle says Tracy's big, big hair has caused "Oh, my God!" excitement from the audience. "It's so much fun."
Even big-hair Texans can't match these heights. "The tallest wig is 19 inches," swears Marcelle. And some even have names. There's Dairy Queen and Rocket. "I call some of my actors head dancers," Marcelle says, laughing, "because they move their hair to the music's rhythm."
Of course, fashionable in this show always means tall. As Marcelle points out, the '60s "were a time of new things and people dared to be fabulous. They dared to be glamorous beyond their nine-to-five lives. And we love fabulous!"