Broadway Babies: Hairspray's Hayley Podschun and 11 More Performers You Should Know

March 22, 2017

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When Hayley Podschun sweeps into the room for DS’s photo shoot, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Like Tammy, the character she plays in the Broadway musical Hairspray, 20-year-old Hayley is bubbly and full of energy. As we start to photograph her, it’s hard to decide what’s more striking: her personality or her professionalism. When we ask her to pose, she has a lineup of choices prepared—and out of the 100 frames, there are only five we can’t use. She’s having a great time, and at the end of it all she wants a candid shot of everyone. “My first magazine photo shoot,� she declares. “I want a picture to send to my mom.�

Her mom has a lot to be proud of. Hayley got her big break at age 12, landing a role in The Sound of Music on Broadway. The National tour of Hairspray came next (at 19), followed by the movie version of Hairspray, where she joined a cast of stars including John Travolta, Queen Latifah and Michelle Pfeiffer. “I cried when I found out,� she says. “I was so thrilled to be a part of it.� As soon as she landed the movie role, she was asked to join the Broadway cast as Tammy. A solid triple threat, Hayley is a dancer (she’s studied tap, jazz and ballet since age 5), singer (she takes daily voice lessons) and actress (she studied the craft for a year at the Boston Conservatory and at NYU’s summer program at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute).

Hayley attributes her work ethic to her hometown studio, Martha-Marley School of Voice and Dance in Overland Park, KS. “We were taught at a young age that you have to know every style and every part. You have to be willing to switch places if asked and not complain. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the back row, because sometimes that’s what the job requires,� she says. Between technique classes and rehearsals for various performance groups, she danced from 4 pm to 10:30 pm daily. It was this demanding schedule that taught her how to multitask and prepared her for dancing in national tours, on Broadway and on film.

Since 2005, Hayley has lived, danced and breathed the role of Tammy—and learned a lot about show business. Dancing for film proved to be very different from the stage. “We had partnered lifts, turns and leaps, all while wearing three-inch heels and long dresses,� she says. “It was intense dancing, and we often had to perform full-out at 4 am after sitting in our trailers all day.� With film, you don’t get immediate feedback on your performance—but once it’s released, you have a record of it forever. “But when I’m running around the stage,� she says, “I can feel energy from the audience. It’s instant happiness.�

Her advice for breaking into Broadway: Get to know the show, the character and the style of dancing before the audition, and plan accordingly. “When I auditioned for Hairspray, I went in with teased hair, a blue headband, a polka dot tank top and jazz pants, but when I auditioned for The Phantom of the Opera I wore pink tights, a leotard and I pulled my hair back,� she says. Also, she adds, just be happy to be there, and show excitement no matter what you’re asked to do. To cope with rejection, remind yourself that there will always be another part, another show and another audition.

Currently, Hayley dances as much as she can, works with a personal trainer, takes singing lessons and continues to work towards her dreams. “I want to originate a role on Broadway,� she says. “I also want to direct, do more films and work with a show from the beginning. But right now, I just want to get a dog and watch ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’�  

Check out our 11 other young Broadway stars from shows like
The Phantom of the Opera, Legally Blonde: The Musical, Wicked, A Chorus Line,
Spring Awakening!