ELIZABETH, NJ - The CAU Community Players will be staging a very special production of "Hairspray, Jr." at the Rahway High School Center for Performing Arts on Friday, June 28, and Saturday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 30, at 2 p.m.
The CAU Community Players is a troupe of actors both with and without developmental disabilities. Formed in 2012, the troupe empowers members with disabilities to engage in the pleasures of acting, singing and dancing with people from the wider community and to be judged for their talents rather than disabilities. The productions also allow individuals without disabilities to interact with those with disabilities and build bonds.
CAU is a Union County-based, statewide nonprofit that strives to integrate people with disabilities and at-risk youth into the general community through comprehensive supports.
The CAU Community Players' annual three-day production draws hundreds of attendees. The troupe each year selects a play that is representative of CAU's advocacy message of inclusion, acceptance and believing in oneself, as well as everyone's worth regardless of ability, according to Marguerite Modero, the group’s director. They also select a play that allows for a large cast, as no one is turned away from performing.
This year's production, "Hairspray, Jr.," is based on the 1988 film and later Broadway hit. Set in 1962 Baltimore, Maryland, the story revolves around self-proclaimed "pleasantly plump" teenager Tracy Turnblad as she pursues stardom as a dancer on a local TV show and fights racial segregation, body shaming and discrimination against special education students.
“The 60s were a fun time but the subplot shows how rampant discrimination was, including against special education,” Modero said. “It is perfect for our troupe because I want them to learn something from every performance. Some of our older members lived through that period and some of our younger members are learning it for the first time.”
The cast of more than 60 performers includes members of CAU and the agency’s Academy of Continuing Education and performers from the wider community from throughout North Central New Jersey. The troupe splits about evenly between people with and without disabilities. Several CAU members have leads, including James Smith, who plays Tracy Turnblad’s mother, Edna, a part made famous on Broadway by Harvey Firestein.
Tickets will be available online by visiting https://rwhs.booktix.com/. The cost is $12.00. Tickets also will be available at the door the day of the performance.
To learn more about CAU, visit www.caunj.org or follow CAU on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.