Written By: Jillian Birt–Russell
Last month, the Newport Harbor Pep Squad had the exciting opportunity to travel to Universal Studios Hollywood where they got to watch and be extras in NBC’s Hairspray Live.
The team traveled to the taping location two separate days, one for the dress rehearsal and the other for the televised live performance. As advised by the studio company, the Pep Squad came decked out in makeshift vintage attire to fit the musical’s original time period set in 1962 Baltimore. Once they arrived at Universal, they received wristbands and were split into groups before riding the theme park’s tramcar down to their assigned sets. Many of the girls got to experience the performance as members of the studio audience on the Corny Collins Show, the popular teenage dancing broadcast that serves as the central sound stage for most of the musical.
The Pep Squad got to enjoy numerous acts of Hairspray Live and got to see many celebrities in person. “The most exciting thing was getting to meet part of the cast and walking onto the actual set,” explains senior Rilie Read. A few of the actors they got to see in person included the talented Kristin Chenoweth, Derek Hough, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson and many more. In between takes, the audience was even taught a small dance routine so they could participate in the show’s final act where the cast performed the staple number, “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” Watching and being a part of the musical was especially fascinating and an amazing experience for sophomore Karoline Shannon. “The most exciting part about being in the performance was getting to see the live actors and the cameras moving around during the scenes, showing how much work it takes to do a huge theater production,” she says.
Some of the girls got to experience the production outside on the Universal metropolitan sets, where numbers like “Welcome to the 60’s” and “You’re Timeless to Me” took place. They also got to see Darren Criss host the entire evening as he ran around the different sound stages during commercial break, giving viewers at home the inside scoop about the show from their couch. Though they were able to experience an incredible production, be on television, and meet some of their favorite stars, they also learned many important things about performing a live show in the fast-paced industry of entertainment. “While watching [Hairspray], I learned that when these amazing people are performing, they’re scared and they’re nervous, but even if they miss a line or mess up, they never ever give up and the show must always go on,” says junior Emma Botros. Seeing the cast interact with each other and enjoy themselves during each musical number and even between separate acts inspired many of the girls on the team and taught them showmanship. “From watching the show, I learned how vital it is to connect with the people you are performing with and to just have fun while performing,” explains freshman Katie Tarnitzer.
The Pep Squad got to travel with their teammates and experience the opportunity of a lifetime in being a part of Hairspray Live, creating an unforgettable memory for them and also enhancing their ability as performers and their dedication as members of a team.