Monday, July 25, 2011

Joel Shoemaker Takes On HAIRSPRAY at Eastlight

My friend Joel Shoemaker has been cast in Eastlight Theatre's Production of "Hairspray," the John-Waters-by-way-of-Marc-Shaiman-Scott-Wittman-Mark-O'Donnell-and-Thomas-Meehan stage musical. I am not all that familiar with Eastlight, which is over in East Peoria, so I asked Joel to write a little about his experience there, now that they're heavily into rehearsals and preparing for their August 5 opening. Here's what Joel had to say, in his unique way...

I have magic saliva. For real. I’ve been a magician since I was seven years old, so on one level this is definitely appropriate. I need you to know I’m being completely serious though. My dentist, actually the hygienist – cute as a flipping button, incidentally – she told me so. Something about recalcification, the dentist guy later confirms.. But that term is far too highfalutin. Bulky. Too, medical. Too termy. Yuck yuck yuck. Obviously, I prefer having magic saliva. So please, when you see me on the streets, licking Washington who turns out none too eager to turn into Franklin or even Abraham for me – hey, I got bills to pay, same as you. I can’t help it only one of us is, for real, magical. Judge away, bystander, I understand you’re jealous. I’ve been there (September thirteenth nineteen ninety eight a.d.) – just don’t call it recalcification. It’s magic.

According to Wikipedia, the wellspring of official, expert-laden research we all know and love, HAIRSPRAY was originally a gift from John Waters. Waters, suffice it to say, sounds like a bit of an odd duck. This film, from 1988, appears to be one of his only non-X-rated movies. Racy duck, too! That said, it is on some list of greatest all-time films. So, brilliant duck. Quack. The musical version of HAIRSPRAY first appeared on Broadway in 2002.

Then, the film-turned-musical turned film, AGAIN, in 2007! The coolest part of all of this is that Jerry Stiller, one of my personal heroes, played Wilbur in the original film and Mr. Pinky – a role for which I’m currently in rehearsals – in the ’07 film where Christopher Walken, one of EVERYONE’S personal heroes, stepped into the role of Wilbur. Does it get any better than that? The question is stupid. The answer, NOPE.

Eastlight Theatre is a relatively young theatre, from what I can tell – with online history dating back to 1992 – which hosts its productions in a high school in East Peoria. I saw RENT there a few years ago and I immediately noticed that this place was different. Extremely high-quality productions that spare no expense to bring their audience, well, to Broadway. It’s what the website says, after all: “It’s Broadway, Our Way.” Moreover, it’s the only theatre I know even so much as willing to stage RENT, not to mention recent productions of XANADU and AVENUE Q! A theatre addict like me, well, I merely wanted to audition. And now, somehow, I wind up trying to fill a long-time hero’s hefty pink shoes.

My saliva, clearly, isn’t magic. The fact that, without regard to the infrequency at which I take part in sundry components of a proper dental hygiene regimen (during my childhood this was expertly executed in tandem with the delivery of Mom and Dad’s beloved TV Guide which was, what, weekly? So that’s not too bad for a kid, but, please, fear not. I’ve obviously grown much wiser. My teeth actually matter to me. Now, I subscribe to at least four magazines.), I’ll never have a cavity is nothing more than biology or chemistry or whatever branch of my least favorite subject. Probably not Earth. What can I say, I just ate six pink pixy sticks. I may be blessed. But I’m not magic.

Live theatre is magic. HAIRSPRAY is magic. Pure. Simple. Fun. And you should do yourself a favor and experience the regional premiere of it at Eastlight Theatre in East Peoria. To find out how, visit

About Joel Shoemaker: A 2006 graduate in Elementary Education with a minor in Theatre Arts and Drama from Eureka College, Joel Dwight Shoemaker presently works at Heartland Bank & Trust Company as a Loan Document Specialist and at Bloomington Public Library as a Library Assistant. He's been acting onstage since 1998, as a freshman in high school. Favorite roles include Moonface Martin in ANYTHING GOES, Kreon in ANTIGONE Carmen Ghia in THE PRODUCERS and Frederick Barrett in TITANIC, not to insinuate that all roles weren't equally magnificent. They weren't. He really IS a magician and really IS available for any occasion you might require such a thing - contact him via e-mail at

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