Photo submitted Rob Atkinson, Omabuwa Dede and Jocelyn Dickson. Rob Atkinson, Omabuwa Dede and Jocelyn Dickson. (Courtesy of Bard to Broadway)

Qualicum Beach’s Bard to Broadway kicks off 20th season

‘Hairspray’ is this year’s musical, opening on July 6

As opening night nears, Hairspray director Gary Brown’s excitement for the show is mounting.

“The energy in this particular show – just because of the story line and the music – it’s phenomenal.” said Brown.

For the uninitiated, Hairspray is set in the 1960s. Most of the story line deals with inclusion in some way. The lead character Tracy Turnblad is overweight, and her mother Edna is traditionally played by a man in drag.

The drag isn’t a requirement, but Bard to Broadway’s interpretation stays true to that tradition. Actor Rob Atkinson will indeed be donning a wig and gown for each evening’s performance.

The musical also deals with issues of race and segregation in 1960s America. It’s based off a real-life conflict arising over segregation on a popular television show in Baltimore in the 1960s.

READ MORE: B2B to perform Hairspray in Qualicum Beach this summer

Hairspray aims to shatter prejudice and pre-conceived notions about appearance.

“I think it’s a comment on acceptance for everything. For weight, for men dressing in drag, for all kinds of things,” said Brown.

“I think that’s what people are going to take away from it too. It’s a dance-able show, you just want to sing and dance, and it’s a really positive message.”

Brown is thrilled with the array of talent he’s been able to work with.

“I don’t think I could have had a better cast. I am so pleased with the way everybody has fit into their roles – they’re perfect,” said Brown.

The play has drawn actors to Qualicum Beach from Victoria up to Port Alberni.

Brown says that over the years, Bard to Broadway has piqued the interest of actors all across the region, with returning cast members bringing friends from afar to come to the next auditions. He’s particularly pleased with his leads, who he describes as strong and experienced leading actors.

Jocelyn Dickson from Nanaimo plays Tracy.

“She is infectious. She is just that sweetest, most positive person I’ve ever met. She just brings that to Tracy. She has got the most fabulous voice.”

Omabuwa Dede, who moved from Nigeria to study at Vancouver Island University, plays Tracy’s best friend, Seaweed. Brown counts his lucky stars that he has Dede in the cast.

“He writes, he sings, he composes – he is brilliant… he should be signed to a record label,” said Brown. “As Seaweed, he is just stellar.”

READ MORE: Mamma Mia! poised to be biggest Chemainus Theatre show ever

Audiences can also expect an array of more than 100 hand-made costumes made in the style of the 1960s. Caron Byrne is the head of costuming, and she’s been hard at work since the beginning of April.

Byrne tried scouring vintage stores for 1960s attire, but didn’t have much luck. So she and her team set to work, sewing everything themselves.

“They had to find patterns, they had to buy fabric in Vancouver… it’s been quite a challenge, but I think it’s really going to blow people away. It just takes you back to the era – it’s amazing what they’ve done,” said Brown.

He also encourages the audience to bring their dancing shoes.

“Maybe brush up on your twist, and your mashed potato, and all those silly dances from the 1960s. We’ll expect you to be dancing in the aisles,” said Brown. “If you can remain seated, and not get up and dance, I’ll be surprised.”

Servant of Two Masters is the first show to open, on July 2. Jenny’s House of Joy follows that, with an opening night on July 4. Hairspray will grace the stage on July 6. All shows run until mid-August.

To purchase tickets or find out more information, visit

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