Baltimore, 1962 – Chubby and ecstatic teenager Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on the popular “Corny Collins Show” on television, but the problem is, the TV manager only wants white, slim, and pretty girls who won’t outshine her daughter.
Yes, it’s the much enjoyed musical “Hairspray” and Tracy Turnblad, the lead character, is portrayed by the Filipina American Cassie Grilley.
This Tony Award-winning musical is based on a book written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. With different versions starting wayback 1988, to the 2007 film version everyone loved which starred Zac Efron, Brittany Snow, John Travolta, Queen Latifah and Michelle Pfieffer, up to the 2016 television broadcast which featured Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson.
This 2019, Bay Area Musical Theater has decided to show “Hairspray” on the stage once again. It is directed and choreographed by Matthew McCoy with music direction by Jon Gallo.
Cassie Grilley is a native of San Francisco but her mother is a Filipina. She grew up in a family who is very fond of theatre. “I was constantly surrounded by theater,” Grilley said. Her grandmother, Diane Price, was the founder of Young People’s Teen Musical Theatre Company – a free musical theatre training. “It was founded in 1984 and is still operational. From the time I was a baby, I would watch every single show multiple times throughout each run. So naturally, I couldn’t wait until it was my turn.” And when she was eight years old, she finally got her chance.
She studied theatre arts at Foothill College and pursued drama at the University of California-Irvine. Playing Tracy Turnblad is a dream come true for Cassie and she said she’s honored to play “such a confident, wise, and sassy young woman.” She said in an interview, “I’m very grateful to be playing such a positive character who advocates for the acceptance of people no matter what they look like.”
“Playing Tracy, who is so confident and possesses such a magnetic energy, has allowed me to tap into these qualities within myself.”
Grilley is a firm believer that everyone must stand up for what is right and just. “This story has reminded me that it’s necessary to love yourself in your own skin, despite the boundaries society may inflict upon you.”
“I hope that audiences are able to see that people often consider this show to be a period piece; however unfortunately, all of the major conflicts that we touch on are still completely relevant today.”, said Grilley.
Another Filipina has conquered the stage! Will she be the next ‘big thing’?