One of the perks of being a student at Civic’s Summer Repertory Theatre Intensive is being able to work with various theatre professionals that have first-hand experience in the theatre world. This summer, students get to learn under the hand of Worth Hages, an original cast member in the first national tour of Hairspray.

We recently asked Worth a few questions about her Broadway experience and how that contributed to her choreography for this summer’s production of Hairspray, Jr.

When did your love for musical theatre begin, and how did that lead you to Broadway?

I have loved musical theatre, really, since I was very little. My mother created and runs a youth theatre, where I grew up in Tallahassee Florida, which is very similar to Civic’s youth program. Theatre was my life growing up, and I spent my childhood studying acting, voice, and dance and performed in many musicals. Those experiences led me to go to college at The Boston Conservatory of Music where my training only intensified. The preparation that The Boston Conservatory provided for a musical theatre performer was outstanding. By the time I was a senior, I was fortunate to get an agent through our showcase performance in New York. That propelled me right into the thick of the Broadway musical audition scene.

Worth Hages as Amber Von Tussle in Hairspray.

What was your Broadway experience like on Hairspray?

I was cast as Amber Von Tussle for the first national tour of Hairspray in 2004. After being cast, I learned how to perform the show in just two, crazy weeks, but was guided by the amazing original creative team: Jack O’Brien (director), Jerry Mitchell (choreographer), and even musical direction from the composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman. I was so fortunate to be part of this original Broadway team that performed in historic theaters around the country, such as the Kennedy Center.  There, the originator of Hairspray, John Waters, even attended a performance and gave notes to the cast.

“I learned from some of the greatest artistic talents, so I cherished all the direction and guidance I received.” 

The Hairspray touring cast with John Waters.

What aspects of Broadway theatre are you bringing to SRTI this summer through your choreography?

I am thrilled to bring my first-hand knowledge of the show to the students at Civic this summer! Maintaining the integrity and style of the original Broadway production is so important, so I’m teaching the students almost all of the original choreography.

I love seeing the students nail the crazy fun choreography that I loved performing too!

What has been your favorite part about working with the SRTI students?

My favorite part of this process is working with the students and seeing the friendships they have created. With those friendships, they have created a trust in each other to take risks and have fun!

The Hairspray touring cast.

In what ways are you seeing them grow as theatre performers?

Since SRTI began, I have seen extreme amounts of growth in the students as both performers and dancers. The choreography is tricky, but the students have surprised themselves by nailing not only the steps – but also the style! I love seeing students who did not consider themselves to be dancers end up leaping in “Welcome to the Sixties” by the second week!

What advice do you have for youth  interested in pursuing theatre in the future?

Training is the best advice I have for interested musical theatre students. Take as many classes in acting, dance, and voice and learn as many different styles from different teachers.

Worth Hages with her costar in Hairspray.

In what ways do you see Civic setting up their students for success through the SRTI program?

There are so many different classes that Civic offers all throughout the year in all aspects of musical theatre and under the guidance of wonderful teachers. SRTI is fantastic because it’s extremely focused and it offers the students opportunities to see how a whole play and musical come together. The students work together as a team, and I have enjoyed watching their teamwork and seeing the respect the students have for everyone involved!

“Civic Theatre has an amazing education department to train and guide students.”

What can audiences expect from the show?

From the moment the lights go up on Tracey in her bed, until the last button in “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” Hairspray, Jr. is a fast, fun, and memorable experience! The show is one of the best musicals ever, with quirky and moving numbers to enhance the story! Most of all, it’s such a fun show to watch, and you can see the kids are having a ball performing it too – I know I did!