This April the SHSU Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre will be producing the Broadway blockbuster ‘Hairspray’, but students may not realize the prestige and experience behind the show.
Greg Graham has led a prolific career, and the winding road has led him back to his alma mater. He first got involved with the original run of Hairspray in 2002 as the shows Dance Captain. After opening the show in Seattle, the crew took it to New York.
“It was fantastic being a part of that process, it was like being a rock star. For about a year you went around NYC and everywhere you went, people knew you were in the cast. And then we won the Tony award.” Graham said.
From there Graham went on the road, traveling with the show as it toured the country and teaching cast after cast the intricate, busy choreography of Hairspray.
Graham continued to audition and win roles in other Broadway productions, his last being Billy Elliot. Then, around 2007, he made a change.
“And then I stopped dancing, stopped performing. I was just choreographing. It was like hitting a reset button, like starting over, conditioning people’s minds to say ‘Oh, Greg isn’t an entertainer anymore, he’s a choreographer,’” said Graham.
Since then Graham has been climbing his way back up the professional ladder, starting with regional theatre, and then associate choreographer work on Broadway shows, to choreographing off Broadway shows. Now, Graham says, he has reached a point where he can return.
“Now I’m at that level, in the last 6 or 7 years, where I can start choreographing my own Broadway production,” Graham said.
So, then the question becomes, why Sam? What made the alumni decide to return to his roots for a production of the play that launched his career?
“I have been coming back to Sam for the last 10 years. When I thought I was interested in this choreographing thing, my wife said I should go back to Sam, find a space where I can figure out my style. ‘There’s no one there to criticize you, or huge budgets, none of the things that provide that stress.’ Plus I get to see my folks and old professors.” Graham said.
Graham wants to help shape the future’s SHSU bearkats.
“I want Sam Theatre to be the best it can be. I may not have all the right answers, but I want to help push it forward in whatever ways I can. Educate the students, first hand, what they will really need once they graduate,” Graham said.
Graham talks about why he and the SHSU Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre decided to bring ‘Hairspray’ to Sam.
“Penny Hasekoester and Laura Avery [the heads of the Department of Theatre and Musical Theatre] asked what I would be interested in doing this semester, what I would do if I wanted to blow the roof off the place,” said Graham. “We decided to piggyback off the show, and bring it here for the spring.”
The show is set to debut at the University Theatre Center April 28, and run through the weekend with show times at 8 p.m. and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The cast and crew have been working all semester to put the play together and will try to dazzle the audience with the same flair the original managed to more than a decade ago.
Tickets for the show are available now online at the university ticket center, or by calling (936)-294-1339, general admission is $15, with discounts available to students and seniors.