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Opelika's Addison Garner returns to the stage in 'Hairspray' national tour as Velma Von Tussle
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Opelika's Addison Garner returns to the stage in 'Hairspray' national tour as Velma Von Tussle

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Actors are accustomed to going in and out of jobs regularly, but the COVID-19 shutdowns in March of 2020, which even made Broadway close its doors, became a nightmare for them.

Addison Garner, 29, had to get creative about how to make money in the face of restrictions against stage performances at the time.

After living in New York for several years, she came home to Opelika.

“What I thought was going to be two weeks turned into a year and a half,” Garner said.

With no acting jobs available, she started a Broadway boot camp at her parents’ house for kids where she gave voice lessons and taught choreography. She also found work as a nanny and started a cookie business, Little Happies.

Finally in April 2021, Garner had the opportunity to virtually audition for a role for the traveling tour of the musical “Hairspray.” Two months later she got a call to let her know she had landed the role of the antagonist Velma Von Tussle.

“When I found out I got the part, I honestly couldn’t believe it,” Garner said. “I started crying and dropped my phone.”

She wasn’t allowed to share the news until this week, and now she’s excited to get back to a new normal.

Garner found her passion for acting in the eighth grade when she played the lead role in the musical “Annie.”

She said Opelika High School has a top notch theater department that led her to pursue a musical theater degree at the University of Mobile.

After graduating in 2014, Garner worked as an actor at various regional theaters, on the Norwegian Cruise Line and on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

While on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in 2018, Garner first played Velma in “Hairspray,” and she said she can’t wait to play her again in this national tour.

“I’ve been obsessed with the movie ‘Hairspray’ ever since I saw it when I was 12 years old,” Garner said. “Getting to play such an iconic character like Velma is very special. It’s fun to play the villainess.”

Garner said that Velma has always been near and dear to her heart and has always been one of her favorite characters. The iconic role has been played by Kristin Chenoweth and Michelle Pfeiffer, actresses Garner says she looks up to.

“The funny thing about Velma is that she’s so true to herself. She truly believes that she and her daughter are the best,” Garner said. “I think that’s what ultimately makes her so ridiculous. She can’t get off her high horse.

“I love playing someone so opposite of me in real life. It’s fun to be the ridiculous villain character that can be the comedic relief,” she said.

Garner is thrilled to jump in and play the evil pageant queen again.

“Hairspray” hasn’t been on the road since 2009, but Garner believes this musical might be just what our country needs right now. She said Hairspray is all about unifying.

“It makes you cry, laugh and want to get up and dance. Even if you’re not a theatre person, you can still find something to appreciate in the show because it’s all about defying the odds,” Garner said. “Especially coming off of COVID and some of the other things our nation has gone through in the past year and a half, we need something happy. We need happy theater.”

The tour will hit the road in November, starting in San Diego, and will travel all over the United States from California to New York to Texas and more.

Garner is looking forward to performing a little closer to home. “Hairspray” comes to Columbus, Ga., on March 16-17, and will be in Oxford, Ala., on March 31 and Huntsville on April 1-3.

“I’m excited to get to do this on land and not be on a moving vessel at all times,” Garner said. “The hardest thing is going to be deciding what to pack in one suitcase.”

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