Category Archives: Production Blog

Hairspray-Jerusalem’s Partnerships – from Flo Low

What an incredible mix of talent and enthusiasm!  There was great energy at auditions and callbacks, as some of the Nicest Kids in Town (really!) came to strut their stuff for our casting panel.  After months of planning, it felt great to share our excitement with so many eager Jerusalemites (and Jerusalemites at heart) – you impressed us with your singing and dancing skills, your passion for the show, and your dedication to being a part of this unique production.  I am so thrilled to be a part of this thriving community, and can’t wait to get to know each of you, be it on stage, in a production staff role, or in the house on performance night.

 I’m writing to formally announce two exciting partnerships on this production, with two special Jerusalem-based arts organizations we think deserve your attention:

 The Malkat Shva Ethiopian Cultural Center is a non-profit institution founded by young Ethiopian Israelis in order to provide a venue where their community can explore and celebrate their own culture.  Among its many activities, the Center hosts a series of youth culture programs in collaboration with Kidum Noar, a Jerusalem municipal organization that works with high risk youth, the American Jerusalem Center, an extension of the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Public Affairs, the City of Jerusalem’s Arts Department, and the Neighborhood Improvement Department of Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, where the Center is located.  At present there are approximately 25 Ethiopian teens participating in the Center’s programs each week, several of whom will be in the cast of Hairspray-Jerusalem.  Please check out their website and their Facebook Group.

Machol Shalem, founded in 2002, promotes the art of independent dance in Jerusalem and the professional development of Jerusalem-based artists, allowing them to remain and reside in Jerusalem.  Throughout the year, Machol Shalem supports and promotes original independent dance pieces, among them a performance targeted for youth.  Machol Shalem strives to aid dance artists from a spectrum of styles develop an original take on dance, while maintaining their personal “touch.”  The issues that stand at the heart of their pieces are the social dynamics and complexities that arise from the encounter of varied and different populations in Israel.  Machol Shalem’s activities are supported by the Jerusalem Municipality; the Cultural Office- Ministry of Culture and Sport, The Jerusalem Foundation, and with cooperation from the Choreographers Association and the Musrara Community Center. 

We are fortunate to be partnering with Malkat Shva and Machol Shalem, and encourage you to check them out!


Don’t Stop The Beat – from Flo our Producer

Last week, Hairspray – Jerusalem welcomed 73 talented, enthusiastic aspiring performers for three intense days including auditions and then callbacks.  More impressive than the talent (which was extremely impressive!) is the love and dedication to community theatre and, in particular, for this show.  I am always excited about the opportunity to work with familiar faces and friends who, through theatre, have become like family to me; in addition, we saw people who had never been involved in a Jerusalem production before, or in any musical theatre production.  It made me realize, again, just how special Jerusalem community theatre can be.

Eli and Flo

But then comes the heartbreaking process of decision-making – and let me assure you, it is as heart-breaking for the casting committee as it is for every actor and actress who gets disappointing news.  There is so much talent in Jerusalem, but only so many roles in each show – and, surprisingly, Hairspray doesn’t even have a chorus!  Also, casting a show is like putting together a puzzle or playing a game of tetris – it isn’t just about a single piece, but how all the pieces fit together, and there are several different possible combinations.  And so it is inevitable that many people with exceptional talent will not be cast, but it is heartbreaking to have to make those choices, and to have to disappoint such gifted performers.
The good news is that Hairspray – Jerusalem is about a lot more than “just” what happens on stage.  There is a lot of work to be done, and many fun, creative roles “behind-the-scenes.”  
  • Are you curious about lighting and set design?  This is your opportunity to work closely with our Director, who studied at NYU and has worked on and off Broadway.
  • Are you hooked on America’s Next Top Model?  Our hair and make-up designer used to work on the runway!
  • Do you dream of being an event planner?  Help us plan our “Welcome to the 60s!” Hairspray-Jerusalem Launch Party, the hottest upcoming event in town!
  • Do you have a nose for the news?  We’re looking for social media mavens, PR geniuses and marketing experts to get the word about Hairspray – Jerusalem to the masses.
In short – the sky is the limit, and it all begins now.  Please be in touch to find out how you can be involved! 
PS  Stay tuned later this week to hear about two new and exciting Hairspray – Jerusalem partnerships!

5 Tips From a Pro: Eli and Ken On Your Audition

Audition sequence from 1988 “Hairspray” movie

It’s the week of auditions!  In ten days from now, we will switch from a project that has 5 people working on it, to a project that has over 40 people working on it.  We hope that anyone at auditions who isn’t offered an onstage role will consider a staff role such as Event Planning, Marketing, Costume Team, and more.  

I want to share with you one last set of tips for auditioning.  I stole these tips from Ken Davenport’s blog.  Ken is a young, smart and successful producer on and off Broadway, and his blog is always interesting even when it isn’t directly relevant.  Below you can find tips he wrote for auditioners, with my comments added in bold.

So whether you are looking to be onstage, singing, dancing, or working on our show’s staff, come down on Tuesday or Thursday to meet us and show how awesome you are.  Keep the following in mind:

  1. Be the 3 Cs.Be comfortable, charismatic and confident.  Actors have to command attention.  They have to be the most interesting people in a 1000 seat theater.  Be someone that we want to get to know.  If you can do that as yourself, I know you’ll also be able to do that in a character. I could not agree more.  Even though in our case, you will be performing for slightly less people, they all need to want to watch you. Your audition should give us a glimpse of that.
  2. Be a Boy Scout.  Be prepared. Remember, an audition for a show, isn’t just an audition for that show.  You’re making an impression on that Director, Casting Director, Producer, etc. that could apply to other projects that they are working on now or in the future.  So even if you’re not right for that part, you could find yourself getting a callback for something else down the line (on Godspell, I watched a whole bunch of people who weren’t right for our show get put in a Wicked pile.)  And that’s why you always have to be on your game . . . which means doing your homework. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.  It just means that you’ve got to treat that five minutes with respect, and be familiar with the material. There are lots of musicals going on in Jerusalem, and we will always be looking for talented performers (sadly, we don’t have a Wicked pile… Yet?)  Impress us, know the material (Hairspray.  In case that wasn’t clear) and we will remember you.
  3. Research who is in the room. Blind dates are nerve-racking . . . blind auditions are worse.  Always try to find out from your agent or the casting director, or even the monitor, who is in the room sitting behind the table.  Is the composer there?  The playwright?  The casting director?  Assistant?  You do this for two reasons . . . 1 – so you can tailor your material, your conversation, and your questions accordingly, and 2 – it’s totally appropriate to drop a personalized follow up note to the folks that you auditioned for . . . but you gotta know who they were. I will make this easy (so that you don’t have to call your agent to find out :-/  ) – you will be auditioning for me (Eli – the director); Jeff, who is our musical director, and Yaeli, our choreographer.  Also in the room might be Robert and Paul, who run Encore! our producing company, and one or two independent observers who will help bring an outside, neutral perspective to Eli, Jeff and Yaeli’s decisions.
  4. If I ask you to make a choice, make one. I commonly ask the people auditioning for me to choose between two monologues, or I ask them to give me three song choices from their book and then I say, “which would you like to do?”  I want to learn what YOU are attracted to, and I also want to see you make a choice.  Don’t say, “It doesn’t matter.  What do you want?”  Actors have to make strong clear choices when developing characters.  I want to see that side of you in everything you do. This is part of the confidence that Ken mentioned above.  We might ask you to do your dance combination again, differently.  Or to sing your song, or for actors to read lines, with a different feeling or action.  Don’t hesitate.  In the words of Sondheim, “The choice may have been mistaken / The choosing was not”.  In an audition we just want to see you choose – nothing is final.
  5. Always audition.The best way to master auditioning is just like everything else.  Do it over and over.  You’ll get numb to the nerves.  You’ll be able to be yourself.  And you’ll get free practice!  I used to go to dance calls, because learning a dance combination at an audition is a free dance class (and I needed them).  Actors who get to work on sides with directors at an audition get a free coaching. There are many more productions to come – and there won’t be a role for everyone in Hairspray, regardless of how good and impressive you all will be.  But come to auditions and start to become part of the Jerusalem theater community!

And something that Ken didn’t mention directly, which to me is by far the most important – absolutely do not apologize.  If you forget the words, if you have a cold, if you need to do the dance combination over again – no problem.  We don’t need to hear you talk about it, we just want to see you act/sing/dance and amaze us with your smile and talent!

See you later this week.

Audition Tips from Yaeli – Dancing

When you arrive at the audition you will spend some time learning a simple dance combination (several dance steps together).  There will be people outside of the audition room to welcome you and teach you the combination.  When you enter the audition room, you will sing the song you have prepared and then you will perform the dance.  Here are some tips on how to do it best:

  1. Don’t worry- it doesn’t have to be perfect, we just want to see how you move. Do your best.
  2. Make it flow- try to connect all the moves together, try to look like you’re not thinking about it.
  3. Act-  Pick a character and dance like they would. Do it with personality.
  4. Don’t be shy-If you feel you have more to show, you can ask to display other talents (Ballet, Acrobatics, different style etc’)
  5. Never apologize at an audition. If you don’t mention it we wont notice it. Speak, sing and dance with confidence.
  6. Have fun!
Best of luck!!!

Can You Manage This? — Hi From Elianna, our SM

Hello everyone!

I’m Elianna Rosenschein, Hairspray’s Stage Manager.
I’ve been listening to the Hairspray cast recording since the week the show opened on Broadway; In other words: for two thirds of my life.
That recording made Hairspray one of the musicals that shaped my love (read: obsession) of musical theater. It’s a musical that could entertain me as a five-year-old with it’s songs and dances, and still as I got older and understood the plot and the issues it deals with.
Here are a few reasons I am excited to work on Hairspray:
  1. It has the fun of an old-time musical but with the sophistication and plot of a modern way of writing, which makes the show both entertaining and interesting.
  2. It already has a wonderful creative team behind it, and soon we’ll have a wonderful cast, too!
  3. Starting to work on a new show is always fun!
To wrap up this blog post I want to share one of my favourite songs from Hairspray which some of you might not be familiar with, because it was not included in the movie.
This is “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” from the original Broadway cast:

How to Choose an Audition Song for “Hairspray”

So, you’re wondering what song to choose for “Hairspray” auditions? Here are a few general guidelines that I think are important:

1) First and foremost, an audition song should help the creative team see the strengths in the performer that are appropriate for the show. Consider what part you’re trying out for. Consider the nature of the character and of that character’s songs in “Hairspray”. Then choose a song from a musical, or appropriate song that’s not from a musical, that shows off your talent as well as possible — in relation to that character’s traits, vocal range, and vocal quality.

In other words, the song you choose is emphasizing something—maybe a quiet introspective nature, or a loud brassy voice, or the ability to do comedy. Choose a song that’s connected to the target character. So, if you’re trying out for Mama Rose in “Gypsy” (for those of you that know that show), you wouldn’t audition with “In My Own Little Corner” from “Cinderella”; but “Don’t Rain on My Parade” might be good.

2) Confidence! Choose a song with which you feel comfortable!

3) We hope to hear lots of songs being auditioned, so decide whether a song from “Hairspray” is the best way to show us your talent — we’re probably going to be hearing a lot of those songs, and you do want to stand out! But if the best song for you is from “Hairspray”, go for it. Other possibilities include songs of the Hairspray-style, from the 1950s and 1960s (popular songs of that time, not necessarily from a musical).

4) You should bring music if you can, either sheet music or a karaoke track. I don’t feel that having background music is absolutely essential, but it does sometimes help a singer feel more comfortable and/or sing better.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

–Jeff Rosenschein, Musical Director

Eli Is Excited – Intro from the Director

Eli K-W

The way that I really want to start this blog post is AHAHHAHHHHHHHHHH IM SO EXCITED!!!!!!11  However, I probably should be a little bit more articulate and specific.  Bringing Hairspray to Jerusalem, and getting to wear the director’s hat, is thrilling for me for a number of reasons.  The main one has to do with my friends – there is nothing more fun that working on a project with your actual friends.  I am referring to my friends who are already on the stellar creative team, as well as the community of actors and others that will come to be once we start working on the show.  This is something that only community theater can give, as opposed to the professional theater world where I spend the rest of my working hours.  Though I want to make a great show, I am actually in this so that we can laugh together, eat together and perhaps burst into spontaneous choreographed dancing in Mamila or Zion Square. 

Another thing that draws me to this production is the connection between the material, and Jerusalem.  Enduring musical theater is always political/social.  (Leave a comment on FB if you can come up with an enduring musical whose backbone isn’t a political or social commentary).  I made aliyah with my family when I was little, and at just about that time, there was a massive aliyah from Ethiopia.  While I had a relatively comfortable landing, Ethiopian olim are dealing to this day with the difficulties of trying to integrate into a society that officially accepts them, while in practice doesn’t always do the right thing.  In Baltimore of 1962, when Hairspray takes place, the city’s African American community was in a similar situation – segregation was outlawed yet you wouldn’t know it, looking around you.

I can’t wait to watch the Hairspray community materialize.  I am not sure what will be more fun – rehearsals for amazing musical numbers such as “Without Love” and “Good Morning Baltimore”, or getting together with the cast and crew at someone’s house after Shabbat dinner to hang out and spend time together.  The only way to find out, however, is to try both!  So please – share the audition page with your friends, invite anyone who might be interested, remember that there are other ways to be part of Hairspray without being onstage, and I can’t wait to see you at auditions or at one of our performances in March.