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Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre's Hairspray Lights Up the City July 8-17

Although it has found home in a few different venues in recent years, a strong argument could be made that Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre belongs – at least sentimentally – at North Side High School. The organization was founded by Kirby Volz who himself called North Side home for a large portion of his teaching career. His former student, Andrew Sherman, is now the director for the program and himself graduated from North Side. For eight years, the school hosted the productions of Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre, and this year it once again welcomes back this summer’s production – Hairspray! – as well as one of its talented alums.

“It’s really a full circle moment for me,” Sherman said as the production moved into its tech week, preparing for its opening on July 8. It’s so great to get to direct a show on my home stage. Of course, I’m learning some of the things that Kirby had to deal with all those years, like the limited wing space. But the administration at North Side has been phenomenal, asking ‘What can we do, how can we help?’”

It’s been more than a decade since Sherman graduated from North Side, and in those years he’s established himself as a talented actor and director on community stages while teaching full-time at Homestead. In addition to now overseeing Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre, he also helms Indiana Musical Theatre Foundation as its Executive Program Director. Although the growth of FWSMT was briefly derailed by COVID restrictions, the organization has two productions (auditions for American Idiot take place at the end of the month) this summer along with their Halloween and Christmas cabarets which are held at the IMTF home on Lake Avenue. With Hairspray, Sherman brings the second production of the musical to Fort Wayne in 2022. Earlier this year the touring production of Hairspray visited courtesy of the Broadway at the Embassy series. The performance featured Fort Wayne’s Billy Dawson in the role of Corny Collins.

“I took our Hairspray production team to that performance,” Sherman said. “I can promise you that we will give a performance as energetic, with as much spectacle, as we can with a cast of advanced high school students. Let’s just say if you missed that production, you won’t be disappointed by this one.”

The age of the cast is important to the story of Fort Wayne Summer Music Theatre, featuring the talents of high school students from 26 schools, some from Ohio as well as almost all of the local schools. It’s a large cast – surprisingly, even larger than last year’s production of Les Miserables.

“This is the largest cast we’ve ever had,” Sherman said. “When we started Les Mis, we had 70 and ended up with 67. With Hairspray, we started with 74 and now have 70. It’s a lot, and it’s a challenge for our costume designer because each person has a minimum of three costumes each.”

Set in 1962 Baltimore, the story follows teenage Tracy Turnblad's dream to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a local dance show similar to American Bandstand. When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight, but she uses that opportunity to campaign for the show's integration. The show demands multiple set changes as well as costume changes and promises to provide a couple hours of spectacular entertainment with a timely message of tolerance and representation.

Tickets for Hairspray are $18 for adults and $15 for students and will also be available at the door. North Side’s large auditorium – one of the largest in the city – provides ample space for those who opt to stop by at the last minute. Performances are July 8-17 and are a Three Rivers Festival affiliated event, which means there’s a $2 discount with a TRF button.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

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