After teaching theater at Bay Area high schools for seven years and improving his own craft during summer breaks by performing onstage for various theater companies in the region, teacher, and semi-professional actor, and UCSB alumnus Scott DiLorenzo will conclude his time in the Bay Area with a “dream role.” Currently in the middle of a four-week rehearsal process for Bay Area Musicals’ production of the Tony Award-winning show “Hairspray,” the 35-year-old actor will co-star as Edna Turnblad, mother of the show’s protagonist Tracy Turnblad. Though “Hairspray” marks Mr. DiLorenzo’s final show in the Bay Area before moving to San Diego, it also marks a first in his acting career: His first performance as a female character.
His casting in the motherly role is keeping with “Hairspray” tradition. Be it drag queen Divine in the 1988 John Waters comedy on which the musical is based, Harvey Fierstein in the original Broadway production, or John Travolta in the 2007 movie based on the musical, each iteration of “Hairspray” traditionally casts a man in the role Edna Turnblad.
“Hairspray” depicts the life of overweight, bullied teenage girl Tracy Turnblad, who lives in 1962 Baltimore, where the civil rights movement in full swing. Her biggest ambition is to dance
on the popular TV program “Corny Collins Show,” which her mother Edna initially discourages her from doing. Overweight herself, Edna tells Tracy, “They don’t put people like us on TV
except to laugh at.” Nevertheless, Tracy skips school to try out for the show and eventually gets chosen, after which she attempts to use her new position to dethrone the program’s reigning “Teen Queen,” win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate the show’s TV network, according to a press release.
Though he has played fathers onstage before, his turn as Edna provides an opportunity for him to explore how a parent of the opposite gender would react to the events that happen to Tracy. As he immersed himself into the character, the actor found that compared to her
husband Wilbur, Edna is “much more protective” of Tracy. Though Edna does eventually support
her daughter’s stardom on the “Corny Collins Show,” she worries that Tracy will have to go
through the same disappointments she has gone through in life due to being an
As a fan of the various iterations of “Hairspray” be it on stage or film, Mr. DiLorenzo was inevitably influenced by the different versions of Edna he has seen, but throughout the rehearsal process has tried to find a unique take on the part. He said, “As an actor we tend to borrow from other people… But I didn’t want to just get up there and do my best Harvey Fierstein
impression. I wanted to make it my own.”
No matter how his take ends up compared to those that have preceded him, it will share commonalities apparent in all of the different versions of Edna: A loving mother and a loving wife who just wanted the best for her family.
What ultimately makes the character Edna a dream role and “Hairspray” a musical that Mr. DiLorenzo has always wanted to do is the theme of acceptance that runs throughout the entire show.
“I’ve always liked the story of ‘Hairspray.’ I’ve always liked the story of acceptance and not judging books by covers,” he said.
The actor admitted this theme has personal resonance. A large man of 6 feet and 1 inch tall and 350 pounds, Mr. DiLorenzo has from time to time been discouraged from acting due to his size, so performing in a show that espouses acceptance of those different from oneself hit close to the heart.
“As a bigger person, you tend to get thrown to the back. I’ve had artistic directors tell me I’m too big to do theater. It’s hard to do this and not feel accepted,” he said.
After he departs the stage for the last time as Edna, Mr. DiLorenzo will move down to the San Diego area to continue teaching theater arts to high school kids at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, CA. There he will perform in shows while he has the summer months off and hopes to work with local theater companies such as the La Jolla Playhouse and North Coast Repertory Theater. Bay Area Musicals’ production of Hairspray opens on July 6 at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco, located at 2961 16th St. The show will close on August 11. Tickets range between $35 and $65 and can be purchased on the BAM website www.bamsf.org/hairspray.