“Hairspray” star Caroline Eiseman reflects on growing up as Tracy Turnblad ahead of the musical’s Fair Park performances

An interview with Caroline Eiseman, the star of the national touring production of “Hairspray.” The musical heads to Music Hall at Fair Park from June 18-30.

Caroline Eiseman - Hairspray
“You Can’t Stop The Beat” (Nov 23) – Caroline Eiseman (center) as Tracy Turnblad along with the “Hairspray” company – Photo by Jeremy Daniel

From singing on a parade float to swinging from balloons in a room covered in clouds across from a life-size model of a unicorn, Caroline Eiseman certainly had quite the welcome to Dallas. The 24-year-old actor came to Dallas for the first time “proper” ahead of her performances at Music Hall at Fair Park, where she’ll reprise her role as Tracy Turnblad during the final stop of the national touring production of “Hairspray” from June 18-30.

“I had walked in a parade with my dance studio at home, but I had never been on a float. I had never sung on a float,” Eiseman says, detailing the unique experience of performing “Hairspray’s” opening number “Good Morning Baltimore” atop Broadway Dallas’ float in the Dallas Pride parade.

Caroline Eiseman - Hairspray
Eiseman (center) on the Broadway Dallas float – Courtesy of The Vokol Group

The following day, Eiseman found herself at the Dallas-based immersive art experience Rainbow Vomit for a photo shoot and interview. It’s all been part of Eiseman’s cross-continent “Hairspray” experience, which began after her college graduation when she was just 22.

“Hairspray” takes place in 1962 Baltimore and follows 16-year-old Tracy Turnblad as she works to try to make it onto a popular teen dance show. Along the way, Tracy fights back against people who try to stop her from achieving her dream because of her weight and the size of her hair. She also fights against the racism of the show’s management to help her friends gain equal representation on the program. Eiseman said that Tracy brings a message of “love and acceptance” in advocating for “equality and ability for everyone” throughout the musical. “It’s so relevant today,” Eiseman says.

Caroline Eiseman - Hairspray
Eiseman atop the unicorn at Rainbow Vomit – Courtesy of The Vokol Group

Eiseman first signed on to “Hairspray” as the standby for Tracy, performing in the role when the lead actor was unavailable. “I had never been an offstage swing or standby before I started ‘Hairspray,’ and I learned a lot,” Eiseman says. On nights when she didn’t perform, she watched the show from offstage, developing a “deep admiration” for all the aspects of the show. She recalls joining the musicians in the orchestra pit during some performances, amplifying different instruments in her headphones to better learn their parts.

Eiseman would eventually take over the role of Tracy for the 2023-24 tour. “It’s the most incredible honor I’ve ever had in my life, but it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Eiseman says, calling the transition to performing every night both “super exciting and super nerve-wracking.”

Eiseman only had around eight weeks between the end of her standby contract and the start of her nightly role as Tracy. “I was like, whatever I do this summer, it’s gonna be cardio, cardio, cardio. I was running on the treadmill almost every day,” Eiseman says, noting that she’s now onstage for the full two-and-a-half-hour runtime besides intermission.

Caroline Eiseman - "Hairspray"
Eiseman trying out the balloon swing at Rainbow Vomit – Courtesy of The Vokol Group

Outside of acting, the shift in roles taught Eiseman a lot about leadership, something she clearly takes great pride in. She relates the “incredible” experience of working with the “Hairspray” cast and crew to the story she tells onstage each night on tour. “I truly think Tracy’s story is nothing without the people around her onstage,” Eiseman says. “I feel like it’s such a gift that I get the coolest people around me every day to live my life with.”

Now, as the tour reaches its final stop in Dallas, Eiseman says she’s “just soaking up every second” she’s spent in “Hairspray.” She feels the show has given her the chance to enjoy experiences she might not have ever been able to have at just 24 if she weren’t on a national tour. “I’ve had the most insane experiences when I’ve been on the show, and it’s been really cool to just grow up with it,” Eiseman says.

“Hairspray” runs from June 18-30 at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas. For more information, visit https://broadwaydallas.org/. This interview has been edited for clarity.


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