Hairspray: The Making of a J-term Musical

Middlebury’s J-term courses never fail to offer an amazing array of academic endeavors. Among them is “The American Musical in Performance,” a monumental joint effort by Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater and the College’s music department, culminating in a fully mounted production at Town Hall Theater — just three weeks after the start of rehearsals.

This year’s show was Hairspray, a cartoonish yet deeply moving chronicle of the youth-driven integration of an American Bandstand-style television program in the early ‘60s. The collaborative company of actors, musicians, choreographers, and staff included 45 students, as well as faculty and community members—and more than a handful had never been involved with a musical before! That’s the beauty of it all, according to director Doug Anderson, who teaches in the music department as well as being executive director of Town Hall Theater.

MiddMag went behind the scenes—literally—for a closer look at how it all came to be.

Watch the full video here, or in shorter chapters below. (Sorry, the chapter version may not work on mobile devices.)

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  1. THANK you so much for putting this wonderful behind the scenes piece together.
    As the proud parents of a cast member, we really appreciate it!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to publish events at Middlebury. For those of who live overseas, it is a long way away and the well written stories and videos give us a better sense of the experiences students have. We appreciate the effort it takes.

  3. Thank you for showing us how much work & dedication it takes on the part of the students & faculty to put on a show that is worthy to be at the level of a Broadway show in such a short time.

  4. Great job on the video, I loved the commentary, and of course, great job on the play!
    Thanks for putting it up for us to share.

  5. Spectacular. What a joy to watch. Bravo to all involved.

  6. This is wonderful!!! I wish I was able to see this, it looks absolutely fabulous – well cast, great scenery, just great all around!!! It definitely made me nostalgic for the Middlebury musical.

  7. Amazing! I cannot believe this was accomplished during J-term. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Having met my wife doing community theater while in the Army in Germany, and having done some 30+ shows in my lifetime (not a few at Midd, mostly for the French Department, but not only) I can only tell you how enjoyable this video retrospective was at all points. Congrats to the cast; ya did great!

  9. What a fabulous production of Hairspray. Congrats to everyone involved. The level of dedication and Herculian effort necessary to put together such an large scale musical ensemble was captured beautifully! Loved the cast, choreography, costumes and director Doug Anderson’s vision in taking on such an ambitious project. I am impressed by the professionalism of both the J-term musical and Midd Mag’s behind the scenes video!

  10. Congratulations to everyone who clearly worked tirelessly to put on this production of Hairspray! What a fantastic video and what a great winter term course! I loved watching every minute of it!

  11. Great work, everyone!

  12. It seriously brought tears to my eyes to see those lucky students working with the THT giant whose amazing efforts brought the Town Hall Theatre to Middlebury. It’s one of the things I truly miss about living there. Doug, you are a gift to the college and the town!
    What a hoot to see it in “living color.” It inspires an added donation from me! PR group keep those videos coming.

  13. LOVE THIS. THANKS FOR DOING THIS. Great to see M theater flourishing!

  14. It was inspiring to watch this colorful and talented collaboration come together ! Terrific !

  15. Awesome, loved seeing it in person. Would have loved the piece to show how the live music is such a huge part of this MUSICAL!!!

  16. Nicely done. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Anderson’s comment that theatrical production should be required for all and the intensity of a January term production is exhilarating. For me there were several starting with “Hamlet” in January 1972. I did end up a theatre major but that’s not the point.


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We hope to create a lively discussion on and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.

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