Paul Vogt as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray Twirls it Around in Heels

Categories: Stage

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Paul Vogt, right, rehearsing the song "Timeless" from Hairspray with Bob Walton
It's not the wigs or the heavy dresses. It wasn't the time his dress got stuck in the big hairspray can onstage, prompting him to change the lyrics of his last song on the spot.

The hardest part of actor Paul Vogt's job as he takes on the role of Edna Turnblad in Theatre Under the Stars' upcoming production of Hairspray?

The shoes.

"Dancing in the shoes. It hurts. Dancing in heels, what's wrong with you people? The first time in Vegas, I had to ice to above my knee. I'm not used to being pitched forward like that. And then you have to dance and run around? I was like 'Oh God, am I doing damage?'" Vogt told Art Attack when we sat in on a rehearsal scene with Vogt and Bob Walton who plays his husband Wilbur in the musical set in 1962 Baltimore.

Vogt took on the role of Edna (who is always played by a man in drag per the insistence of John Waters, who directed the original 1988 movie version and wanted to continue honoring his muse, Divine) from Harvey Fierstein on Broadway. This is now Vogt's seventh different production of Hairspray.

"Being a big kid, there are not that many roles," Vogt said. "Hairspray is so well written, so much fun to do."

"I've always liked playing characters, and a man playing a woman is the furthest you can get."

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The play differs from the 2007 movie starring John Travolta, Vogt said, in that Edna has more of an arc to go through onstage, from a woman with stringy hair and disappointed dreams to the dress designer she always wanted to be. He thinks the stage version is funnier than the movie. And the character of Tracy, the daughter with weight issues who gets to dance on the Corny Collins show, is stronger, he said.

Vogt's credits include three years on MADtv, a character in Princess Diaries II, the summer NBC series the Rerun Show and guest star stints on Hannah Montana. He still uses some of his improv experience in Hairspray just to make things a little livelier on stage, he promises.

The Edna Turnblad part requires him to sing and dance.

"I can dance. Sure I can actually tap dance some. I move well for a large boy," he said. "People say that I have a good voice and that I can sing. I say that I 'yell loudly on pitch.' I'm very Ethel Mermany."

Despite the popularity of the 2007 movie, Vogt said he hasn't heard people sing along, except in Las Vegas. "In Vegas we definitely had people singing along because they could drink. It was a 90-minute version. Vegas was a little different because they wanted to get them in, do the show, and then get them back out gambling."

Hairspray runs at the Hobby Center October 5-17. Tickets are available online at TUTS.com or by calling 713-558-8887, or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office, 800 Bagby at Walker.

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