Arts & Entertainment

ShowKids Invitational Theatre Presents Hairspray

SKIT presents the inspirational musical Hairspray, starring Alyssa van Veldheuisen, 17, of Flemington as Tracy Turnblad. Credits: Dave Dabour
SKIT’s Hairspray features the 'nicest kids in town.' From left are Jonah Lione of Clinton; Alyssa van Veldheuisen of Flemington; Avery Stoker of Clinton; and Natalie Mehl of Lebanon Township. Credits: Dave Dabour
ShowKids Invitational Theatre 'can't stop the beat' in its high energy production of Hairspray. Credits: Dave Dabour
BFFs Tracy Turnblad and Penny Pingleton (Alyssa van Veldheuisen of Flemington and Sydney Kozakis of Lebanon) lead the energetic and hilarious cast of SKIT’s production of Hairspray. Credits: Dave Dabour
The 'nicest kids in town' just 'can’t stop the beat' in SKIT's production of Hairspray. Alyssa van Veldheuisen, 17, of Flemington (center) is Tracy Turnblad. Credits: Dave Dabour

LEBANON TWP., NJ - The inspirational musical Hairspray will be presented in four performances next month.

The musical will be staged by ShowKids Invitational Theatre.  

“You can’t stop the beat” when Perry Award-winning choreographer Maria Mantak returns to work with the “nicest kids in town.” This big and bold musical about one girl's inspiring dream is a high-energy SKIT production.

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Performances will be held Saturday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 7 at 2 p.m.; Friday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m.  All performances will be at Voorhees High School, on Route 513 here. Use Glen Gardner for GPS.

Tickets cost $13 to $20, and can be purchased directly at or by calling the SKIT ticket line at 908-638-5959.  A complimentary Senior Citizen Brunch is offered at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 7, prior to the matinee performance.

Winner of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Hairspray is a family-friendly musical, piled bouffant-high with laughter, romance and deliriously tuneful songs. 

Set in 1962 in Baltimore, a lovable plus-size teen, Tracy Turnblad, has only one desire – to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. She must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob, Link Larkin, and integrate a TV network ... all without denting her 'do!

“Hairspray is such a fun show, with lots of big production numbers that really energize the audience,” says Carolyn B. Newman, SKIT producer/director. “But watching the cast truly immerse themselves in the underlying story about shattering stereotypes and overcoming segregation, inspires me at every rehearsal.”   

Tracy Turnblad, the bold Baltimore girl who crashes the Corney Collins Show, is played by Alyssa van Veldheuisen, 17, of Flemington. A senior at Hunterdon Central, Alyssa began her SKIT career in 4th grade, and counts Tracy among her favorite roles, a list which includes Rosie (Really Rosie), Genie (Aladdin), and Urleen (Footloose). She will be attending Rutgers this fall to study neuroscience, with a goal of someday performing as a surgeon.

Link Larkin, the star heartthrob of the cast, is played by the incomparable Avery Stoker, 18, of Clinton. The North Hunterdon senior delighted audiences last season as the Cat in the Hat in SKIT’s production of Seussical, was nominated for a “Best Youth Actor” Perry for his role as Parchester in Me and My Girl, and recently led a hilarious production of The Addams Family at North as the passionately troubled patriarch, Gomez Addams. 

Rounding out the trifecta of senior talent in this production is Sydney Kozakis, 17, of Lebanon, whose portrayal of Tracy’s best friend Penny Pingleton practically forces you to LOL. Also graduating from North Hunterdon, this is not the first scene-stealing and leave-‘em-in-stitches role for Sydney; her performances as Gingy in SKIT’s award-winning production of Shrek and Gertrude McFuzz in last year’s Seussical were among her most memorable roles. Sydney will be attending Muhlenberg College in the fall. Adding to the fun for this particular production, her real-life sister Cassandra Stahl returns to the SKIT stage to play her mom, Prudy Pingleton.

The reigning Miss Teenage Hairspray, Amber Von Tussle, is impeccably performed by Natalie Mehl, 16, of Lebanon Township; and Ariana Fort, of Three Bridges, plays her stage mother Velma Von Tussle. Reprising his previous stellar performance as Seaweed J. Stubbs is Ben Izlar, of Asbury. He is joined by two relative newcomers with pipes beyond their years sharing the role of Motormouth Maybelle: Nala King, 13, of North Plainfield; and Imani Smith, 14, of Phillipsburg. Little Inez is played by Sierra Sainte-Rose, 14, of Lebanon Township. Reprising his/her role as Edna Turnblad is SKIT veteran Mike Griffin, of Hillsborough, whose on-stage spouse, Wilbur Turnblad, is played by John Kozakis, of Lebanon - the third in the Kozakis clan sharing the stage in this production.

Hip TV host Corny Collins is Jonah Lione, 16, of Clinton, a former “Best Youth Actor” nominee. The energetic council of the Corny Collins Show is enthusiastically performed by some of the nicest kids in town: Ryan Apgar, 14 of Clinton Township; Amy Schroeder, 16, of Bethlehem; David Reese, 15, of Clinton Township; Sera Bunca, 16, of Asbury; Sean Kane, 14, of Bloomsbury; Allisa Conover, 14, of East Amwell; Sam Hostler, 15, of Glen Gardner; Brooke Wachenheim, 16, of Clinton; Evan Bravstein,14, of Chester; and, Marilena Parker, 16, of Clinton Township.

The dynamic Dynamite Girls are Sara Alicea, 16, of Lebanon Township.; Abigail Griffin, 14, of Hillsborough; Kaylyn Feeley, 16, of Clinton Township.; and Hannah Willsey, 14, of Clinton Township. 

Playing multiple roles including Mr. Pinky is SKIT veteran Jeff Mehl, of Lebanon Township. Also appearing in multiple roles are Ben Black, 15, of Union and Sue Disko, of Lebanon Township. Rounding out the most spirited ensemble you are likely to see on a stage this year are 15 more of the area’s most talented youth:  Reyna Browne, 12, of Stewartsville; Sabrina Bunca, 12, of Asbury; Owen Butler, 12, of Asbury; Isabelle Cappel, 14, of Ringoes; Abby Chauvette, 13, of Clinton Township.; Grace Corcoran, 14, of Lebanon; Alexa Epstein, 14, of Califon; Kayla Julien, 12, of Stewartsville; Olivia Rubano, 13, of Chester; Charlotte Ruffine, 13, of Tewksbury; Brianna Smith, 12, of Bloomsbury; Abby Swan, 14, of Clinton Township.; Owen Tabor, 13, of Lebanon Township.; and, Josie Whitmore, 14, of Lebanon Township.

SKIT founder, director and producer Carolyn B. Newman is a Hall of Fame member, inducted by the New Jersey Association of Community Theaters (NJACT) in 2015.  ShowKids Invitational Theatre has received 14 Perry nominations for best musical and more than 150 total nominations over the last 30 years.                                                                           

SKIT is a nonprofit, family community theatre group. ShowKids Invitational Theatre programs are made possible in part by the State Council on the Arts/Department of State, through funds administered by the Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission.



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