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As part of a high school project, Michelle created a copy of the Broadway playbill, using her face.

For her senior project at Gibbs High in the Pinellas County Center for the Arts, Michelle Dowdy directed scenes from the Broadway show Hairspray. She also starred as Tracy Turnblad, the character she now plays on Broadway.
Hear audio from the Gibbs High performances:

Michelle Dowdy sings Good Morning Baltimore and I Can Hear the Bells

Michelle Dowdy had auditioned on a lark.

In January she had gone to New York with her mom, Karla Harris, to visit colleges. A friend had phoned to tell Michelle about an open casting call for Hairspray. They needed someone to be the understudy to the lead character.

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Hairspray is the story of Tracy Turnblad, a chubby teenager with big hair and even bigger dreams. She wants to dance on her favorite TV show. “I want to be famous!” she says.

Her hefty mom, Edna, worries. “They don’t put people like us on TV — except to be laughed at.”

Set in Baltimore in 1962, the show is about ignoring stereotypes and learning to accept yourself, about love and letting go, about growing up and chasing a dream.

John Waters wrote and directed the 1988 movie. The cast included Pia Zadora, Sonny Bono and Jerry Stiller. Ricki Lake launched her career as Tracy. And Divine, in drag, played her loud and loving mom.

The musical Hairspray debuted on Broadway in August 2002. The next year, it won eight Tony Awards, including best musical. Harvey Fierstein, working in drag, won best performance by a leading actor in a musical for his portrayal of Edna. Marissa Jaret Winokur, the original Tracy, won best performance by a leading actress in a musical.

The show plays on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 W 52nd St., every day except Monday. Tickets cost $25 to $100. For more information, please see

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