Actor Jay Brazeau has some mighty big pantyhose to fill as he is set to star as Edna Turnblad in the Arts Club’s anchor show Hairspray during its 2010/2011 season.
“The best place to always approach a character is to start with yourself. Or in my case my mother. She was nowhere physically like Edna, she was skinny as a bean pole and extremely attractive but at the same time had a lot of the same characteristics of Edna.”
Brazeau remembers his mother inviting the woman from across the hall over and watched as they would share a Pepsi and a cigarette.
“I have a picture of her always in my head,” continued Brazeau. “Sitting in the kitchen, legs crossed, laughing, blowing smoke rings, and when the bottle was half empty she would pass the rest to me. The lady across the hall was called ‘Fat Kay’ and she weighed as much as her name. She would get mad at her kids and they would hide under the bed because they knew she couldn’t reach them. So Edna for me is a combination of those two beautiful people.”
For Brazeau though the idea of dressing in drag isn’t what really attracted him to the role. When he first auditioned for Hairspray six years ago unlike his fellow actors came in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. Asked by one of the auditioners what attracted him to the role, Brazeau said it wasn’t the idea of dressing up in women’s clothing but the chance to play a mother.
“To discover what that was like,” he elaborated. “To be able to see raising a family through different eyes. That is the challenge of the part. And the icing on the cake of course is getting to sing, You Can’t Stop the Beat!“.
Despite getting his wish to play a ‘mother’, it is clear that becoming a ‘woman’ everynight is not necessarily an easy task: shaving his back and his eyebrows, the addition of breasts and what he calls his “humungous ass” which adds 50 pounds, the yards of make-up and the countless number of stage-hands that would grab his boobs (until he grabbed back – between their legs)!
“The hardest part of being a woman was believing that I could honestly make people believe that I was one,” said Brazeau. “I wasn’t sure until a middle aged Russian man sent me a note backstage saying he wanted to meet me and take me for a vodka because I reminded him of all the girls back home.”
I know what you’re thinking: did he take him up on his offer? We’ll probably never know; he says he’s not the kind of ‘girl’ to kiss and tell.
Arts Club Theatre Company
Three new Canadian works; the “big fat musical” Hairspray; the hit Broadway comedy, The 39 Steps; and the Canadian Regional premiere of contemporary masterpiece August: Osage County are just a few of the highlights in the Arts Club’s 2010/2011 season.
With 14 productions in three theatres (Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, Granville Island Stage, and Revue Stage), the new season is a landmark in the history of the company.
Season tickets for the Arts Club’s 47th season are on sale now. Call the Arts Club Box Office at 604.687.1644 or go online at artsclub.com.