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Hairspray vs. Beauty and the Beast vs. Mary Poppins

  • 1.  Hairspray vs. Beauty and the Beast vs. Mary Poppins

    Posted 05-30-2019 16:42

    Kiss, marry, kill. Go!

    Oh, sorry. What I meant to write was:

    For those who have done any combo of Hairspray, Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast, how do the roles compare? Specifically Tracy, Belle and Mary (I have an actor who could kill all three of the roles) - which is larger, which is more showy, which is more dance intensive?

    I would love to hear about the other roles as well, both lead and supporting and how they compare  - which one shows off the ensemble and smaller roles the best, are any of them tricky to cast? I want to have a large cast next year, and I have a lot of actors that can handle supporting - and lead - roles that I would like to feature.

    Ken Buswell
    Drama Teacher
    Peachtree City, GA

    Theater kills ignorance

  • 2.  RE: Hairspray vs. Beauty and the Beast vs. Mary Poppins

    Posted 05-31-2019 05:54
    I'm very familiar with all three ... I've directed Mary and Beauty... but never Hairspray as that requires a very specific minority cast and we don't have a diverse enough school to be able to cast the show.

    Between all all three I'd say that Mary or Tracy would be the strongest female characters. Belle is sweet but the other two, in my opinion, require more personality in order to portray them well. Both shows require dancing and both can be expanded to include a lot of kids.

    Bert in Mary Poppins, to me, is more difficult to cast than Beast or Gaston ... or maybe that was just because of the students I had at the time I did both shows.  I'd say Beauty has more exciting opportunities for supporting female roles.

    If costuming is a concern, Hairspray will be the easiest and Beauty the most difficult ... we rented all the enchanted objects (except Wardrobe because it was too expensive to ship) and made all all costumes for Mary Poppins ... but both Disney shows require some character specific costuming while anything 60s will work for Hairspray.

    To do some quick research I'd suggest watching all three films if you haven't seen them in a while. Of course the Disney films are not the exact same as the musical it will give you a better visual of the necessary elements.

    Toni Thomas
    English Teacher, Theatre Director
    West Branch MI

  • 3.  RE: Hairspray vs. Beauty and the Beast vs. Mary Poppins

    Posted 05-31-2019 07:07
    In my mind, these are three very different types. I would want to know more about this student.

    I think Mary Poppins is the more showy role. It requires a high level of acting and excellent vocals. Less dancing skill required. The show is much more expensive and difficult. You must have a plan for all the magic tricks. It has in my opinion worn out its welcome.

    Tracy Turnblad is a very specific type. It requires a near triple threat actress with excellent dance skills. She is the center of the show and most carry it. The show is a lot of fun but has lots of moving parts and requires a high level of diversity. The role of Edna is also a vital role and must be well-cast.

    Belle is a much less specific type. She most be lovely of voice and charming. The role does not require a lot of dancing skills but she must be graceful. The show relatively easy to produce and most of the costumes can be easily rented.

  • 4.  RE: Hairspray vs. Beauty and the Beast vs. Mary Poppins

    Posted 05-31-2019 08:36
    I've done Beast and Poppins. Instant reaction: Poppins has a crazy amount of costumes (With a cast of 60 students we had over 275 different full costumes for Jolly Holiday park goers, Chatterboxes, Sweeps, Toys, Starlighters) and the magic is hard (the magic kitchen). Many folks do Poppins without flying, as that's another aspect to figure out. All that said, this was a super popular show and the kids loved learning the original Broadway choreography for "Supercal" (which anyone can do) and "Step in Time" (which is advanced tap and with the reprise runs 10 minutes long). This show really, really relies on Bert and Mr. Banks because the primary story focuses on the character journey of Mr. Banks and Bert is the charismatic narrator (I caution anyone not to do this show unless you have Bert and Mr. Banks). Mary's role can dance as little or as much as you want, with the primary dance opportunities being: Jolly Holiday, Supercal, and Step in Time. Out of the three shows, I think this show has the best ability to feature multiple students: Ms. Banks, Ms. Andrews, Bird Woman, Mrs. Correy and Daughters, Bank Chairmen, Admiral, Valentine (lead toy), Jane, Michael, Mrs. Brill, Robertson Ay, Neleus. Then the minor named roles to include even more students with a "moment": Von Hussler, John Northbrook, Katie Nana, Policeman, Miss Smythe, Park Keeper, Queen Victoria, Miss Lark. We used a group of children's ensemble to dance during "Feed the Birds" and to make families in "Let's Go Fly a Kite."

    Beast has fewer costumes, but you have to do the enchanted objects (let me know if you choose this show because I'll share with you how we did enchanted objects and it didn't break the bank). Belle is a bigger role than Mary because it is actually her story, and requires much more acting skills. Beast really only has opportunities for other women in Mrs. Potts, Babette, Wardrobe, and the Silly Girls. You have to have men to cover Lumiere and Cogsworth (they must be funny!), Gaston and LeFou, Beast, and Maurice. There are not as many dance numbers in this show for the ensemble, as it's really Be Our Guest, Gaston, and Human Again.  You can make the other ensemble songs dance-y, but they really are more storytelling than dance: Belle and the Mob Song. We used the Wolves as lyric dancers to provide more opportunity for our dancers. Belle can dance in Be Our Guest, or she can watch. She must dance with Beast in the iconic ballroom scene. 

    In summary:
    Belle is a bigger role with more acting challenges than Mary
    Mary has more dance opportunities than Belle
    Ensemble has more songs, feature roles, and dances in Mary Poppins (and you can include an elementary ensemble)
    Beast requires many strong boys, Poppins really needs 2 (and one doesn't really have to sing, but must be a strong actor)


  • 5.  RE: Hairspray vs. Beauty and the Beast vs. Mary Poppins

    Posted 05-31-2019 10:15
    Mary Poppins!  Once you get into it, the depth of character, the vocal production is a definite show stopper!

    Melinda Carlson

  • 6.  RE: Hairspray vs. Beauty and the Beast vs. Mary Poppins

    Posted 06-01-2019 14:08
    Thank you, everyone!

    A little background: we did Little Women this year (loved it!) and our Marmee is returning next year. She can do (and has done) anything - serious or comedic - and can dance as well. We had a small cast, so I'm looking for a larger cast to build up our numbers, and a show that will bring in an audience. For Hairspray, I think my only concern is finding a Seaweed. I'm sure we have the talent in the school, it's just matter of finding him and getting him to audition. For Beauty and Mary Poppins, I'm not looking forward to dealing with the sets or and costumes.

    How were your audition numbers for each show? I also want to do something that will get a lot of kids to audition.

    Ken Buswell
    Drama Teacher
    Peachtree City, GA

    Theater kills ignorance

  • 7.  RE: Hairspray vs. Beauty and the Beast vs. Mary Poppins

    Posted 06-01-2019 18:52
    Edited by Josh Ruben 06-01-2019 19:13
    Here are some of the criteria I consider:
    Large Cast vs. Small Cast
    Mary and Beast don't need a ton of performers, a company of 20-30 is max, but you can always add more. I just wrapped Hairspray and had a cast of 70 performers (another 25 crew/house for approximately 10% of my school's population).  We platooned the various numbers to focus on different groups (Detention Kids, Baltimore Citizens, and Corny Collins Dancers).  All of the kids felt like they had a lot to do and no one was "stuck in the back" or felt like "spear carriers."

    For all of our shows, I do an open call so that everyone sees what everyone else does.  Depending on the show, I either have the kids sing a "Hot 16" from a similar Broadway show.  If they want a lead, they sing a song (usually the "I Want Song") for that character.  If they only want to be in the chorus, or can't decide, I have them sing a song from the show.

    Then, we do a dance audition (in groups) where everyone learns a section one of the big production numbers.  Over the years, tons of kids have shown up because of our dancing.  We've even had to extend the auditions an extra day or two after word-of-mouth spread about how fun the dance auditions were.  Even non-dancers feel empowered.  Call-backs involve music from the show and readings of sides.

    For example: Girls auditioning for leads in Hairspray sang the opening verse and chorus from "Good Morning Baltimore"
    Belles sang "Belle's Reprise"
    Marys sing "Practically Perfect"

    Mary and Beast are wide-open. Hairspray actually has a rider that expresses that "blackface" will not be used.  Yes, people are out there that think it's okay (sigh).  Without a Motormouth, Seeweed and Little Inez, Hairspray is out.  I have a small population of minority students, but I had those three characters and was able to fill out the rest of the Detention Kids with mixed-race and Hispanic performers.

    Tracy has to be a belter and be able to move well, she doesn't necessarily have to be a great dancer
    Mary sings legit and movement is minimal (she can even sit and watch during most of Step in Time).
    Belle sings mostly legit with some belt she doesn't dance much at all

    Dance vs. Movement
    In Mary, "Step In Time" is probably the most demanding choreography.  In Beast, Be our Guest can be a challenge.  But, among all three, Hairspray has several show stoppers; each of groups has a number (or three!!!) that feature strong dance ensembles.  I have a great relationship with a local dance studio and we partner-up for the musicals.  However, in any show, if you are creative with staging, even a box-step can look cool.

    Aways a bear, but Hairspray is the easiest of these three.  The kids had a blast raiding their parents' (and grandparents') closets to find the right look. Tons of stuff was found on Amazon.  My Dynamites all found great dresses for less than $20!  The Edwardian look for Mary and the Fairy Tale look for Beast will be a challenge.  I have good rental suppliers due to our proximity to the film industry in nearby Atlanta.

    Hairspray is a very prop heavy show. Rolling on desks, TV studio elements and shop windows for street scenes is a challenge.  Mary has the house and all of the tricks which take time to set up and must be rehearsed.  Beast is also prop heavy and you have the "transformation" sequence at the end.  If you have a good lighting set up and crew some issues can be handled through creative lighting.

    All three are great choices, just be sure you find a good balance between your goals and your resources.

    Break a leg!!!

    Josh Ruben, M. Ed.
    Fine Arts Head
    Northwest Whitfield HS (dba, The Northwest Theatre Co.)
    Tunnel Hill, GA