Today’s breaking news of Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson and multiple Tony Award-winner Harvey Firstein starring in Hairspray Live is the perfect day to share Broadway Global exclusive stories from NBC’s Hairspray Live Tracy auditions. Hairspray Live brought over 400 talents for the lead role of Tracy Turnblad. A few of the actresses share their exclusive journey to educate others for future TV/Broadway cattle call auditions. Those pictured are Anna Olivia Banks from Florida, Courtney Kirby from Oklahoma City, Kate Hunter from Utah and Megan (Meggy) Stillson.
Megan (Meggy) Stillson from Orlando Florida has a powerful experience, “So, this was my first audition in two years. The last audition I went to was also for a production of Hairspray (theatre company and director shall remain nameless) where I was offered the role of Tracy but then two days later was called and told that they had given the role to another girl and I was no longer needed. This devastated me to the point of the largest panic attack of my life. I had kinda given up at that point.
Two years later a friend of mine who had conducted a production of The Pajama Game that I took part in posted the link to the Telsey and Company audition for Hairspray Live and I flipped. I saw it and immediately started planning how I could make it happen. My mom had been saving money for my sister to go on a vacation, and without a second thought my sister told me to take the money. I worked 20 hours of overtime at work to pay for a hotel room, and had to practically beg coworkers to switch shifts with me so I could get the days off.
Three weeks later I’m putting my headshots together and start crying because even though I’m excited to go, I can’t help thinking of the last Hairspray audition that left that scar on me. Another panic attack. After talking with my sister, mom, former college professor, and multiple best friends (who all answered the phone at midnight, thank god), I stopped crying and decided that even if I didn’t go to the audition, I would have fun in New York anyway.
My flight out of Orlando was at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 23. I had only slept about an hour because of all the emotional problems. Landed in New York and thank god, my hotel was ready.” Megan (Meggy) Stillson has to stop telling the journey as her flight was about to take off, “To be continued. My flight back to Orlando is about to take off.” Once she lands she continues home and follows up on the second part of her story.
“So my hotel room was ready, thank god. I walk in and it’s the tiniest room I’ve ever seen. One twin bed, a sink, small dresser, and a closet. Shared bathroom with everyone else on the second floor. All I could think was ‘This is so New York… And I love it!’ So I called my mom and told her I was settled and then immediately took a nap. I was only going to be in New York for 36 hours, so I wanted to stuff in as much as I could. Woke up and went to see Matilda, which was FANTASTIC. I absolutely adored it. Originally I had planned to take a tap class at Broadway Dance Center after that, but decided to see another show, so I ended up seeing Phantom of the Opera for the fifth time. Everything was fantastic. The weather and everything had totally turned my attitude around and I actually felt quite at home.”
“Went to bed and slept for about 6 hours. Alarm went off and I totally forgot I was in New York, that’s how comfortable I was. Got ready and headed out to the audition. I get there and the line is wrapped around the corner, about five blocks down. Having resigned myself to the fact that I would be waiting a very long time, I started walking to the end of the line. Suddenly I hear someone call my name, so I turn around. Turns out it was my friend Courtney (the blonde in the picture) who I went to college with, and who I haven’t seen in three years. We hugged and I started crying because even though I was comfortable by myself, it was so nice to see someone I knew.”
“So I joined her group, and we waited. And waited. And waited. Camera crews came around interviewing random people, girls kept singing ‘Good Morning, Baltimore’ at the top of their lungs… It was crazy. Meanwhile, we’re standing there thinking “Okay… Well we’re the most normal people here.” To me this wasn’t some huge audition. It was a part of my life. An audition to further my career, not my big break. I knew there would be a ton of people there, so I tried not to get my hopes up too high. That seems to be my downfall usually.”
“My number was 212. Finally we all got into the building and waited outside Studio 3, which was color coded as the Orange studio. On my way to the bathroom someone tapped me on the shoulder and said “UCF?” I turned around and was introduced to a man who was on the camera crew who graduated from UCF the year that I came into UCF. We talked for a little bit, and it was fantastic to be able to bond with somebody over something like that. Made me feel even better. Didn’t wait very long before they lined us up and told us exactly what cut they wanted to hear of “Good Morning, Baltimore”. I was second in my group, and I wasn’t that nervous, which felt so good. I was comfortable. I sang the last verse into the key change, and felt great. It was amazing to know that I was talented enough to be up there with everybody else and actually have a chance. After singing, I was told I had a beautiful voice and that he loved my pink hair. Walked out of the room, gave Courtney a high five, and sat. After everybody in the group was done, we all gave each other a group hug and decided to get lunch together.”
“After lunch I went back to my hotel, grabbed my suitcase, and headed back to the airport, still on Cloud 9 that I actually motivated myself to do this after all the trouble I had been through in years previous. Now as I sit in my crappy office job, chained to my desk in the event that I get a phone call, I just have to remember that I actually took the chance. I stared a dream in the face and went for it. In the end, it doesn’t matter if I get the part, or even get called back. What matters is that I picked myself up from the ashes and successfully took a chance for something that I genuinely wanted.” Megan (Meggy) Stillson.
Anna Olivia Banks went on social media and Facebook to request help with funding her trip to the NYC auditions. We had seen her perform before in south Florida and many were excited to see her announce she had made her goal in funding. “This weekend was such a learning experience and I couldn’t believe I was getting that chance. I didn’t think I would be walking the streets of New York auditioning for my dream role a month ago. I made a go fund me account hoping that it could happen and I couldn’t believe how many supporters I got in a matter of a few days. When I first got to New York the night before we found out that my hotel reservation was cancelled and their was nothing they could do. In a panic I felt defeated but luckily my best friend Noel had an aunt that lived in Harlem next to Central Park and opened her home for us which was amazing. No matter what struggles I endured I didn’t want to lose focus on why I was here. I kept a level head when I was worrying about what to do in that moment. I got myself together on 4 hours of sleep and woke up at 5 am and made it to Times Square at 6:30 a.m. in the freezing cold with hundreds of young women hoping for this dream of a lifetime. No matter what happens out of this it was a wonderful experience making friends, having fun, and seeing all the love people have for Tracy Turnblad. I am beyond grateful for this and it’s definitely one for the books!” Anna Olivia Banks.
Courtney Kirby shared this “This was an incredible experience! Of course I woke up very early, my mind brimming with nervousness and excitement, and made my way down to the audition location. Times Square was absolutely beautiful at 5:30, and when I arrived at 6:00 a.m., I was already #213 in line. I was very fortunate to meet up with some incredible fellow Tracy hopefuls in line (some that I’d known before, some that I met for the first time there in the cold wind, waiting for that warm NYC sun to rise…). Together we talked about the role, about the theatre industry at large, about what to expect from the audition, and so much more. When we finally made our way to the front of the line, we saw that 10 Tracy hopefuls were being let in at a time. Once inside, we were sorted into studios that corresponded with the color of the audition forms we’d received while waiting in line. Finally, it was time to audition!! One at a time, we sang “Good Morning Baltimore,” voices strong and hearts racing. Once I was done, the casting director thanked me warmly and sent me on my way. I stepped back out into the city’s cool wind, now with new friends at my side, and headed out to explore more of New York. This was an unforgettable experience, and a really amazing first NYC audition!” Courtney Kirby.
Kate Hunter shares her story today from Utah. “I was totally overwhelmed when my amazing friend (Nellie Kelly) started a go-fundme to get me to NYC for Hairspray Live auditions! The financial support came flooding in from my friends and family. I was incredibly humbled by their confidence in me. I guess I was doing this. I was really going to NYC to audition for this part. I’ve always loved theatre, but I had sort of taken a break from it. Tracy Turnblad is a special character, and I’ve always felt so close to her. She knows exactly who she is, and she lives her life fearlessly. She stands up for what’s right and has no problem dismissing those who don’t believe in her. With the financial support of my friends and family, I had this opportunity to fearlessly audition for my dream role.”
“My amazing friend and seasoned New Yorker (Derek Moreno) was kind enough to let me stay with him in NYC. He’s very experienced in the Broadway and Television world, so I was very lucky to have him take me to the audition and help me navigate around the city. We got there at 6:00 a.m., and the line was already pretty long. Luckily, I met some seriously cool Tracy Turnblad hopefuls. They all made the five hour wait in line so much fun. It was so wonderful to be able to relate to these women.
We became fast friends, and I was so happy that we were all able to be there together for the entire process. Once it was finally my turn to audition, I walked into a private room and saw one person sitting at a table with my resume in front of him. I introduced myself, and gave him fifteen seconds of singing and smiles. It was quick, but I felt strangely comfortable. When it was all over, he smiled at me and thanked me. I awkwardly exited the room, and we shared a brief laugh together. It was over so quickly after much anticipation!”
“As I type this, I’m sitting in the library at The University of Utah. It’s my finals week, so I’m already back in Salt Lake City getting ready to finish up this semester. After this amazing opportunity, I’m not necessarily waiting for a call. I feel totally at peace knowing that I had so much support from my loved ones. This whole experience was such a treat, and it really taught me to continue to live fearlessly. I will continue to channel that Tracy Turnblad attitude, and the attitude of those three amazing women I stood in line with. All bodies are beautiful and all bodies have the power to reach for the stars. It’s important that we know that. Every woman in that line was a star in her own way.” Kate Hunter.
Hairspray Live will be directed by Alex Rudzinski will join stage director Kenny Leon (“The Wiz Live!”). Harvey Fierstein, who is also writing the teleplay, will play Edna Turnblad, a role he created and won a Tony Award for in the stage version of “Hairspray.” The quintessential Edna, Fierstein portrayed the character for the show’s first two years of its seven-year run at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway. Jennifer Hudson, will play Motormouth Maybelle. Hudson is currently completing a triumphant run in the acclaimed revival of The Color Purple – performing the role of Shug Avery in her Broadway debut. Hairspray Live reunites Hudson with executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who worked with her previously on NBC’s “Smash”.
Harvey Fierstein will provide a new teleplay and Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, On Your Feet) will serve as choreographer for Hairspray Live production with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Smash” and Broadway’s upcoming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
“We are beyond thrilled with this incredibly talented duo of stars for ‘Hairspray Live!,'” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. “Harvey Fierstein created the role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway in an indelible Tony-winning performance that demanded to be memorialized on film, and we’re happy he wanted to step into her shoes one last, unforgettable time. We’re also so grateful that the incomparable Jennifer Hudson will play Motormouth Maybelle and we know her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ will literally stop the show.” Hairspray Live is produced by Universal Television.
While we are very happy for the huge talents in Hairspray Live production team and starring roles announced, we remind our 180,000 Theatre Chat friends and family of the sacrifices artists make to get to National cattle call auditions. Best of luck to all those who auditioned, you must be present to win. The audition will always be a journey to share and we thank you Anna Olivia Banks from Florida, Courtney Kirby from Oklahoma City, Kate Hunter from Utah and Megan (Meggy) Stillson for sharing your Hairspary Live audition photo that is worth more than we can express in words.