Singing and dancing our way to equality

Hi! I guess an introduction is in order. My name is Amanda Keehn, and I’ll be playing the “fun loving, free-wheeling” Brenda on the Corny Collins Show, in Encore’s production of Hairspray, coming to Jerusalem this March.

I’m sure by now most of our future audience members are vaguely familiar with the plot of Hairspray, but just in case, the show can be summed up pretty quickly. A misfit girl fights racism and inequality by song and dance. The good guys win. The TV station is integrated. When you think about it, you really can’t dream of a more typical happily-ever-after story.

You’ll have to forgive my slight tone of cynicism. And don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the plot and message of Hairspray. It’s a feel-good story that no one can possibly dislike! The thing is though, that while watching a show like Hairspray, one might have the following thought: “This is all very nice, but the situation in Baltimore of the ‘60s was a lot more complicated than what’s shown here. It would be a lie to say that singing and dancing can bring an end to prejudice.”

For all the skeptics out there, I used to agree with you. We see racism every day, sadly, and it seems to be one of those problems that may forever plague the human race. And, since his is an article about theater, I’ll quote from another show and say that “everyone’s a little bit racist.”

In Israeli society today, there is great inequality. I grew up in Beit Shemesh, a town that is comprised mostly of olim, from various different countries. Walking through the town, you can see a distinct difference between the immigrants who were taken care of, and those who were not. There is much tension between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.

However, the process of Hairspray has changed my perspective. It’s a truly unique show: it may be the first time a Jerusalem community theater company has had a cast made up of Anglo and Ethiopian people, most of us olim. The process has shown me just how powerful the message of Hairspray really is. At rehearsals, we all come to sing and dance together. If I have difficulty learning a dance move (and I have much difficulty); and another cast member is also struggling, the color of our skin really does not matter. We’re learning together, and we laugh and whine and eventually get it right.

So yeah, it sounds corny, that singing and dancing can actually make a difference. But from what I’ve seen so far, we have a cast that has bonded through singing and dancing, and we are all friends. I hope that our whole audience will come out of Hairspray feeling happy and hopeful, and that we all will be able to apply the message of Hairspray to our daily lives!


More about Hairspray Jerusalem at

Tickets at:

About the Author
Amanda Keehn is a Hebrew U student studying communications-journalism and Jewish thought. She made aliya from New York in 1997 and lives in Beit Shemesh.