1. Indy snagged the show’s world premiere.
Why? It just so happens that Jack Everly, principal pops conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, fills that same role for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Baltimore, as any hair hopper knows, is the hometown of John Waters, creator of the original 1988 movie Hairspray, and the setting for that and all of his other films. Everly is known for taking Broadway shows, which increasingly rely on synthesized music to save money, and creating concert versions that place a full-scale orchestra right on stage with the actors. The result: lush, symphonic sound for numbers like “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and “Good Morning Baltimore,” with just enough scenery, choreography, costumes, and dialogue to lend a theatrical atmosphere. Given the experience of Everly, an Indy native, the show (based on the Tony Award–winning 2002 Broadway rendition and subsequent movie remake) ended up debuting here today at an 11 a.m. Coffee Concert; it heads to Baltimore in two weeks.
2. John Waters narrates! In person! Which is divine, because the man himself is divine. Once dubbed the “Pope of trash” and “prince of puke” for his outre underground films (if you aren’t familiar with the famous climax of Pink Flamingos, don’t Google it while you’re eating), the provocateur with the pencil-thin mustache went on to direct more mainstream—but always off-kilter—flicks like Hairspray, then Cry-Baby, Pecker, Serial Mom, and many more. Here, four reasons why he is amazing:
a) That hilarious “no smoking” PSA he starred in that used to run before every movie when Hollywood Bar & Filmworks was still downtown. Got laughs every single time, even though everyone had seen it before.
b) He once said this: “I love Judy Garland, but if a reporter were coming to my home, I wouldn’t have her music playing. A gay man loving Judy would be like a black person watching a minstrel show.”
c) And this: “If someone threw up at one of my screenings, it would be like a standing ovation.”
d) Despite his rep for trashy filmmaking and gleeful depravity, one of his personal heroes (as touchingly described in his 2010 best-seller Role Models) is … Johnny Mathis. The man will find a way to shock you.
3) A Hairspray sequel script and TV show treatment are out there languishing. So confides Waters during his narration of Hairspray: In Concert. The TV show hasn’t been picked up “for now,” he says, but it sounds like the movie sequel is deader than a cockroach beneath Amber von Tussle’s heel.
4) The real Hairspray story didn’t have a happy ending. The “Corny Collins Show” that Tracy Turnblad is dying to dance on was closely based not on “American Bandstand,” but a local Baltimore TV dance show called “The Buddy Deane Show.” As in Hairspray, the dance show was racially segregated, reportedly to the chagrin of the host himself. Unlike in the fictional story, though, civil-rights struggles did not lead to a stirring victory: “The Buddy Deane Show” went off the air rather than integrate. It happened, says Waters during his narration of Hairspray: In Concert, after “a bunch of white kids snuck onto Negro Day.” But, Waters says, “This is musical comedy. Who needs the ugly truth? I gave Hairspray the happy ending it deserved.”
Hairspray: In Concert, performed by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Jan. 11–12, 8 p.m., at Hilbert Circle Theatre; Jan. 13, 7:30 p.m., at the Palladium in Carmel. www.indianapolissymphony.org
Photos courtesy Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra