Wakatipu High School presents Hairspray

It's 1962 in Baltimore, and Tracy Turnblad has only one desire: to dance on the popular "Corny Collins Show." When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star, and must use her newfound power for good.

That’s right - this April, the incredible Wakatipu High School cast took on Hairspray, a family-friendly musical piled high with…

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It's 1962 in Baltimore, and Tracy Turnblad has only one desire: to dance on the popular "Corny Collins Show." When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star, and must use her newfound power for good.

That’s right - this April, the incredible Wakatipu High School cast took on Hairspray, a family-friendly musical piled high with laughter, romance and deliriously tuneful songs. It was an incredible performance, with months of hard work by students finally paying off.

Below, we chat with Bethany Graf (actress), Kieran Leftley (stage manager), Bethany Argyle (band leader and saxophone player), and Eve Pagan (actress) on their role in Hairspray.


  • Congratulations on an incredible performance. How are you feeling now that it is over and the curtains are drawn?

    BG: Being my last show, it’s very bittersweet. I feel good knowing that I can finally relax a little bit, but it also breaks my heart knowing it will be my final school musical.

    KL: Relieved, sad, but also proud. On one hand, I no longer have to worry about people being where they need to be, or a malfunctioning mic, or missing cues. But on the other hand, I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished.

    BA: It is a little bittersweet. It’s so great to have performed and shared our hard work, but I’m going to miss all the people and just having a great time doing something I love.

    EP: It's a unique, cool feeling being part of such a fun and successful show. Now that it's over, I have so much free time I don't know what to do with it! It feels a bit empty, but it makes me excited for next year. 


  • What inspired you to try out, or be involved in the production?

    BG: I’ve watched Wakatipu's productions every year since I was little, so I knew I wanted to be a part of the musical when I finally came to high school. 

    KL: I was first drawn into the musicals by the technology aspect, and have helped running the shows ever since.

    BA: I wanted to be involved in the musical because I wanted to make the most out of the opportunities at Wakatipu High School and our incredible music area.

    EP: This is my second musical with WHS. I love musical theatre and performing!


  • Looking back now, what would you say was the most rewarding part of being part involved?

    BG: The memories and connections we made throughout the musical. It forces you to open yourself up to people you wouldn’t usually cross paths with, so I really enjoyed meeting new people and forming relationships.

    KL: The relationships you make. You really become one big family.

    BA: The people. You become so close with everybody and make so many great friends.

    EP: It was opening night for me. It felt like our hard work had finally paid off.


  • "Hairspray" deals with themes of diversity, inclusion and social change. How did you personally connect with these themes?

    BG: The show helped me examine my own personal beliefs and cultural differences, trying to create a supportive environment for everyone, regardless of background.

    KL: The ‘inclusivity’ theme really connected with me. In primary school, I was a bit of an outcast, but was able to find my people when I came to high school. The musicals allowed me to put myself out there, and feel accepted by the whole musical team.

    BA: I feel like Hairspray does well with showing the social change that has happened since the sixties, and makes it really engaging for younger people.

    EP: Hairspray was set in the sixties and we have come a long way since then. Tracy was ahead of her time because she too was the subject of small-mindedness and bigoted behaviour but she was able to rise above it. We are lucky to be living in a society where "Amber-like" behaviours and attitudes are the minorities.


  • I imagine a show of this size and scale took a lot of time, effort and hard work. Could you tell us a bit about that?

    BG: This has been the biggest cast I have ever been in, so controlling 60+ students during rehearsals was a massive task. At times, it was hard to be taken seriously, but as we all grew closer as a cast it was easier. In the end, we all wanted the same outcome - a great show.

    KL: The show really starts the year before, with auditions held in October and the cast using the holidays to start working on their lines. Once back at school, we have one group reading before singing rehearsals start, which becomes dance rehearsals and scene rehearsals. By March, we’re rehearsing five to six days a week. About a week before the show, the techs rig the lights, stage and sound systems. Over Easter weekend, we come in for tech rehearsals, then the dress rehearsal before opening night.

    BA: The amount of rehearsals does not even begin to show how much work was put in during music classes, drama classes, dance classes, art classes and outside of school. So much of the work you don’t see on stage, but a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it. Literally.

    EP: One of the best parts of the size of the cast and crew is meeting lots of new friends and spending months together working hard rehearsing for the show.


  • Can you tell us about a memorable moment?

    BG: When my mic stopped working on night three, the audience was very forgiving and cheered me through Act 1.

    KL: Seeing how much the musical meant to people. People flew down from Wellington just to watch the show. And on opening night, Bethany (who played the lead) burst into tears because all the effort she’d put into the last few years had led to that moment.

    BA: Closing night was probably the most memorable. It was our best night, performing with the best crowd, and every single person involved felt so incredible after the show. It was just a really great night shared with a great group of people.

    EP: Performing alongside one of my best friends. We had so many laughs together, on and off stage.


  • Were there any challenges or obstacles you had to overcome along the way?

    BG: Balancing schoolwork and rehearsals was a real challenge, with almost all my breaks filled with the musical. Keeping up my relationships with friends who weren’t in the show was also a challenge.

    KL: The biggest challenge for me was keeping up with my internals. Luckily, I had good friends who kept me updated on anything I missed.

    BA: My saxophone broke on opening night after Act 1! Luckily I could borrow a friend’s saxophone for the rest of the show.

    EP: Leading up to performance week was a challenge for me trying to balance assignments, extracurriculars and rehearsals, but in the end, it was absolutely worth it.


  • What advice would you give to future students considering being involved in future productions?

    BG: DO IT!  It is something I look back on so fondly. Even if you feel you are not a performer or have stage fright, get involved in any way you can - performing, backstage, or in the band.

    KL: Just go for it, the musical is like one big family. Keep an open mind, we all have different roles to play that suit different people. Whether it’s the band, the cast, the tech crews, backstage crews, hair and makeup, set design or props crew.

    BA: Enjoy it. Preparing for the musical is hard, but it’s also one of the best experiences you’ll have.

    EP: Go for it. The rewards hugely outweigh the challenges.


  • What benefits do you think arts, culture and creativity play in your life?

    BG: It brings people together and connects people who wouldn’t typically cross paths.

    KL: The musical has made me more confident. The bonds and relationships you make have also played a huge part - the arts are really all about connection, whether it's connection to others or connection to self. You put a little bit of yourself into everything you do, and when people look at that and enjoy it, they’re connecting with a small part of you.

    BA: I wouldn’t be the same person without arts and culture, specifically music. It just completes me and influences my mental well-being for the better.

    EP: The arts are a big part of my life, helping me get out of my comfort zone and meet new people.