Photo courtesy of Taylor Flamini
Cactus Shadows High School will perform the musical Hairspray beginning with the debut at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The run of the show will be six performances with Friday, and Saturday shows this week and then March 10-12. The show will take place at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center.

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Cactus Shadows debuts Hairspray
MARC BUCKHOUT ~ MANAGING EDITOR ~ 3/2/2011

Upbeat catchy music, a timeless message of tolerance and acceptance and an enthusiastic cast is the formula Cactus Shadows Theater Director Andrew Capo is banking on when the school performs the musical Hairspray with a 7:30 p.m. debut on Thursday.
The show, with six performances includes Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances and then March 10, 11, and 12, is the second under the direction of Cupo, a Northern Arizona University graduate who returns to teach at the high school where he was once a Falcons student himself.
“We’re very excited to do this show,” Cupo said. “I believe theater should have a purpose bigger than just teaching kids how to act. Sometimes people forget about the message. They can get complacent with the steps we’ve taken as a society, but sometimes it needs to be reinforced that there is still more we can do to make the world a better place. Despite the message of the play it’s still a fun show. People get wrapped up in rooting for the good guy.”
The good guy is actually the play’s female lead Jamee Hanson, a junior, who plays Tracy Turnblad.
Turnblad’s dream is to be on a television program, what Cupo describes as the equivalent of American Bandstand or Ed Sullivan.
Despite having to take abuse about her looks and her size the undeterred Turnblad finds her way onto the show.
Once she makes it she pushes the show, set in the 1960s to integrate, allowing blacks to participate on the program.
“My character is a girl that loves to have fun,” Hanson said. “She is naïve to a lot of things including discrimination. She doesn’t see any reason everybody shouldn’t be able to dance together.”
Hanson said her character’s optimism is admirable.
“She goes through things that I know would make me mad, but with her she just lets them roll off her back,” Hanson said. “Eventually her spirit changes others more than their behavior changes her. People come together in the end.”
Despite dealing with some weighty issues Cupo said the play keeps an overall light upbeat feel thanks to the music.
“It’s a good mix of jazz, rock, love medleys a bunch of head boppers that will get stuck in your brain,” he said. “The music has an explosive energy and has the 60s vibe.”
Along with a cast of more than 50 actors the show also will turn to the student body to perform the music.
“We’ve got a wonderful band from the high school that is going to play the music,” he said. “They really have it down.”
Hanson said in addition to the music the sets and costumes also will set a mood.
“Everything is so colorful and elaborate,” she said. “The costumes are really great. They go with the time period really well.”
Cupo said with a drama club numbering more than a 100 the opportunity to pull from a vast talent pool also factored into choosing Hairspray.
“We have a bunch of students where this will be their first show, but everybody is pulling their weight,” he said. “It has been really fun seeing the kids get excited. The more I’ve explained the show to them the more they started to understand what’s at stake in the show and the more they understand the more they emotionally
put into it.”
Cupo has experienced some emotions of his own coming back to teach at the school where he was once a student.
“I was quietly overwhelmed when we did The Crucible last semester, but now I’m getting used to the ropes,” he said. “Teaching here has been a great experience. Because I knew a lot of the people it wasn’t really awkward. The other teachers have been supportive. The teachers that I had as a student all want me to do well.”
Being a 22-year-old teacher has its plusses.
“We’ll I look like I’m 12, but I think being young I can relate to my students,” he said. “I’m more their generation which works in getting
my message across.”
Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center is located at 33606 North 60th St. in Scottsdale. Tickets to the show are $12. With a student ID or by purchasing online seatyourself.biz/cactusshadows tickets are available for $8.