In his 15th year of acting, David Coffee will put on a fat suit, wig and high-heels when he visits Dallas' Winspear Opera House to play the role of Edna Turnblad in the Tony Award-winning musical Hairspray.
Coffee chose the role in spite of missing the 10th year of his beloved Trinity Shakespeare Festival.
“I don’t expect to be in those heels for many more years," he jokes. "I have a few more years of playing the Shakespeare roles.”
Born and raised in the Arlington area, Coffee began acting at 11 years old when he played the role of Otter in The Wind in the Willows in 1968 at Casa Mañana. He has a long history with Casa Mañana, including a turn as Edna in its 2011 production of Hairspray.
Coffee returns for the September production of Hello Dolly as Casa Mañana celebrates its 60th anniversary. He has also been in a long-term relationship with another theater company. He has been starring as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at at Massachusetts’ North Shore Music Theatre for 25 years. Most recently, he played Dwight Babcock in North Shore’s production of Mame.
Coffee returns to Dallas for two and a half weeks of rehearsals and the show’s one-and-a-half week run. The role requires Coffee to wear a fat suit.
“The best advice I got the first time I played Edna was to make sure the suit has a zipper,” Coffee says.
He enjoys playing Edna, saying “she is the grounded one.” Hairspray has a “great message of acceptance and love and also great music.”
“It is fascinating because although the music was written for the show in 1988, it sounds like it is from the '60s," Coffee says. "It nails the musical style.”
Liz Mikel will play Motormouth, and when she sings "I Know Where I’ve Been," Coffee says he can't watch.
“Because I wouldn’t have a dry eye,” he says.
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Coffee says the production includes a truly young youth ensemble that brings even greater energy to the “high-energy, uplifting, people-uniting production with its message of showing humanity for everyone.”
In our hyper-politicized times, Coffee says this show has nothing that he could possibly imagine offending anyone.
“It is a celebration of people,” he says. “Come, leave your problems at the door and experience the love of life. This show is a love fest.”
Hairspray runs July 7-15. Tickets start at $28.