In from the road

I had a nice chat a few days ago with Sharon Malane, the New Canaan native who has been on tour with “Hairspray” for the past year-and-a-half, and who arrived at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre this week.
The show has already taken Sharon to Japan and at the end of the summer the John Waters-derived hit will be playing Shanghai and Beijing in China.
The actress was cast in a smaller part in the show when the chance to take over one of the leads — Penny — came along. After just a few rehearsal sessions, she went on.
“It was hard but I knew the show. I never felt, ‘Oh, I missed out on a long rehearsal…It’s like a story being passed down from a mom to her daughter. You just find your own way with it,” she said.
One of the surprises for everyone connected with “Hairspray” has been the way family audiences all over the world have responded to the show despite the fact that it is derived from a film by the notorious creator of “Pink Flamingos.”
“It’s true, we get all ages,” Malane said. “I just think the show is honest about the way people feel and this girl (Tracy, the chubby best friend of Penny) who has nothing.”
With the rise of “American Idol” and other competitive music and dancing TV shows, Tracy’s burning desire to become one of the regular dancers on a 1960s era Baltimore teen TV show has connected with contemporary audiences of all ages.
“It’s about being creative and being free,” Malane said, adding that the tight mother-daughter bond between Tracy and Edna also tickles and touches the family crowd.
“The secondary story about civil rights is still something audiences relate to. Look at our election and everyone wondering whether the country would elect a black president,” she added.
Malane got the performing bug at New Canaan High School when she played Little Red Riding Hood in the Stephen Sondheim musical, “Into the Woods.” She was hooked and went on to “Carousel,” “Anything Goes” and “Hello, Dolly!”
Thrilled to be working so steadily so soon after she graduated from college — she saw the Broadway version of “Hairspray” while she was still in school — the actress feels like she is working in musical theatre at a particularly fervent time.
“There have been a couple of breakthrough shows like ‘Rent’ and ‘Spring Awakening’ that are opening things up to new people and new talent — there are a lot of interesting things happening on Broadway,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sharon is looking forward to lots of New Canaan family reunion time this weekend before “Hairspray” hits the road again.
(“Hairspray” is being presented tonight at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Shubert, 247 College St., New Haven. For more information call 562-5666.)