Performing in theater inspires Windsor senior

Published 11:35 am Saturday, January 27, 2018

America loves musicals, and has decades worth to prove it. They’re usually moral, uplifting and have a happy ending that can make the viewers feel good afterward, maybe even whistling tunes on the way home. One person who appreciates them is Mary McLaughlin, a senior at Windsor High School.

Her love of musical theater is such that she tried out for and got the lead in “Hairspray,” based on John Waters’ movies of the same name.

Premiering last weekend, the cast will perform one more time tonight, Jan. 27, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be bought at the door for only $5 apiece.

McLaughlin started out on stage beginning in her sophomore year. She recalled performing with WHS alumnus Dustyn Bain in a one-act play titled “Super Heroes Day Off,” about fans obsessing over Storm, a character in the X-Men comic book series.

“We were getting ready to audition for “Grease — one of my favorite musicals,” McLaughlin said, “but I was not too comfortable with singing and dancing and acting quite yet. My senior friends took me under the wings and urged me try out for the part of Jan.”

She did and with that her confidence has grown to the point that she decided to seek the role of Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray,” which is about a Baltimore teenager in 1962 who gets to perform on a local TV dance show.

“It’s a very positive and uplifting image,” said McLaughlin.

“I was very shocked,” she added, when theater director Virginia Beatty Riffle chose her to play Tracy. “She really entrusted me to play this part. Those are big shoes to fill.”

Rehearsals started around October and, in spite of delays caused by snow days earlier this month, McLaughlin was ready to shine.

“I got over my initial stage fright. It was very nerve-wracking, but also an adrenaline rush,” she remembered of that first night. “I love making people laugh and even cry. It’s the best feeling knowing you’re putting everything into that character.”

Her interest in the theater is easy to appreciate when you consider her sister, Meredith, majored in musical theater at Averett University in Danville.

“She opened my mind to the possibilities of musical theater,” said McLaughlin. “Playing different characters is so amazing to me.”

They are the daughters of Andrew and Lisa McLaughlin of Windsor.

This growing interest in theater has inspired her to one day do what her Riffle is doing with her students.

“I want to go into musical theater education and teach the young kids about the theater arts. They definitely get you out of your shell, out of your comfort zone,” McLaughlin said.

She’s not yet auditioned for any outside theaters, but has applied to colleges and plans on furthering her performance resume.

“I’m hopeful to be able to tour one day. Broadway is always a dream of mine,” McLaughlin added, and acknowledged the high competition to perform on that level.

Meanwhile, she encourages other students interested in stage work to “Follow your gut feeling. Follow your heart. I never knew about this amazing feeling, and now I just want to be the one to inspire.”