1962 Baltimore meets 2012 Peoria whenHairspraycomes to town.

Founded in 1954, Peoria’s Corn Stock Theatre is a crown jewel of the region—the only outdoor theatre-in-the-round in central Illinois. The 2012 summer season marks its 59th year under the tent in upper Bradley Park, and with performances beginning July 13th, Hairspray is the season’s third production.

The winner of eight Tony Awards, Hairspray is based on the 1988 film by John Waters. Set in 1962 Baltimore, it’s the story of a plus-sized teenage girl named Tracy who dreams of dancing on the city’s Corny Collins Show. Once she wins a spot, Tracy sets out to integrate the show and win the heart of its star, Link.

Having begun her theatrical career at Corn Stock in 1968, director Pam Orear has directed at the professional, community and educational levels, performed professionally as a singer and actor, and founded numerous community theatre groups. For Orear, the work on a production can begin up to a year in advance of opening night.

After selecting the show—“I always pick one that I believe in,” she says, “and one that I think the audience and performers will enjoy”—she begins to develop a vision of the design, characters and staging. Once the show is cast, rehearsals last for eight weeks. Corn Stock’s production of Hairspray features a cast of 100 performers of many ethnicities, ranging from age eight to 82.

“It promises to be a colorful, fast-paced, high-energy musical that will explode onstage,” exclaims Orear. “It’s filled with upbeat songs, lively dancing and fun, endearing characters. My goal is to have every audience member leave the tent smiling, dancing and moved.” a&s