Hair-raising adventure

Tara Macri of Hairspray

The force of her hair isn’t making Tracy (Carly Jibson) topple into Link (Austin Miller). That’s love.

The force of her hair isn’t making Tracy (Carly Jibson) topple into Link (Austin Miller). That’s love.

Anyone who’s ever popped the lid on a can of Aqua Net knows that hairspray is a force to be reckoned with—and now the proof is onstage. This week, find out what “maximum hold” really means as Hairspray (yes, a musical based on the John Waters movie) comes to the Pioneer Center.

Set in the 1960s, Hairspray is the story of Tracy Turnblad, a pleasantly plump teen whose biggest dream is to dance. When Tracy wins an appearance on a local TV dance show, she becomes an overnight sensation. But is her newfound popularity enough to take down her main rival, Amber Von Tussle, while racially integrating a TV network and finding true love? With big enough hair and a little Broadway magic, anything is possible.

Tara Macri, 24, plays the role of snobbish teen queen Amber Von Tussle. “She is the blonde villain,” says Macri of her character. “She’s a spoiled brat who learns everything from her mother. She wants to be Miss Teenage Hairspray, and nothing’s going to get in the way of that.”

The best part about playing the bad guy? “She’s pretty bratty. You can let out a lot of frustration,” says Macri, laughing. “The lady who plays my mother [and I], we have so much fun being evil; you can always hear the audience gasp at certain lines.”

Still, there are downsides to being bad. “I remember the very first show we did,” Macri recalls. “It was hard … it hurts to know the audience hates you, even though it’s a character.”

Macri is originally from Toronto and has been dancing since she was about 5 years old. But her mom and dad were the opposite of typical stage parents. “I begged them to go to auditions and stuff,” Macri says. “It was me forcing them.” By age 11, she was also taking singing lessons, studying opera with a voice teacher. “It was great, but I wanted to do pop—she wasn’t too keen on that!” adds Macri.

Macri started out performing in the Toronto production of Hairspray before going on tour in 2004 with a few other members of the Toronto cast. She enjoys the show’s colorful, retro feel, including the ‘60s-style dancing. “We do have certain [dance] moves,” she says. “The hand jive was popular; we have the Madison that we do. It definitely is period.”

Not surprisingly, Hairspray also features some pretty impressive wigs. “The first wig I have is a basic ‘60s do, where the front is big with curls,” says Macri. “But the last wig is pretty spectacular. It’s huge! Some people say it looks like a tumor because it’s so big. It has a cage underneath, and they just put tons of hair all over it.” The unwieldy wigs present some challenges for their wearers. “It’s heavy, but we’re all used to walking around [in them],” Macri says. “There are certain things you can’t do. I have to go under a chair in the scene with that wig, so you have to keep one hand on it.”

Macri has never been to Reno, but she’s looking forward to her week-long stay. “We’re all having such a great time,” she says. “Changing cities and having different audiences in each city makes it a cool experience because you never have the same reaction twice.”