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The Suburbanite
  • Teresa Houston is in 'Hairspray'

  • Over the years, I’ve enjoyed performances by Teresa Houston in Broadway musicals at various local theaters. Yet, I was floored to read in the program for the current Players Guild production, “Hairspray,” that this is her 63rd show.

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  • Over the years, I’ve enjoyed performances by Teresa Houston in Broadway musicals at various local theaters. Yet, I was floored to read in the program for the current Players Guild production, “Hairspray,” that this is her 63rd show.
    “It’s been a long run,” Houston says brightly. Since retiring from the Frito-Lay distribution center in Green almost two years ago, she has even more time to pursue stage roles.
    Her character in “Hairspray” is the comic villainess Velma von Tussle, whom she plays to the hilt in flashy costumes and a blond wig. “It’s one of those delicious roles. You have to have fun with it. You want to make her the villainess the audience loves to hate,” she says. “I was really happy to be a glamorous character instead of an old lady.”
    In the musical “Titanic” at the Players Guild, Houston’s character was 70 years old. In her scene-stealing comedic role in the guild’s “The Full Monty,” her character was possibly even older. And Emma Goldman, her labor-organizing character in the guild musical “Ragtime,” was scarcely a glamour girl, either.
    “Anytime I’m in a show now, it’s always with younger people,” she says. “Being with them makes me stay young and feel young.”
    Houston was a child, growing up in northeast Canton, when she began acting. “I was always performing shows in our backyard, my brother and sister and me and the neighborhood kids,” she recalls. “And, in the winter, we did plays and puppet shows in the basement. I’ve always been pretty confident, even as a child.” As a fifth grader, she played the wicked stepmother in “Hansel and Gretel” at Belle Stone School, and, at McKinley High, she was Julia in George Orwell’s “1984.”  
    Her first of 30 shows at the Players Guild was in the chorus of the musical “Promises, Promises” in 1972, right after she graduated from McKinley High School. She appeared in virtually every musical the guild staged through the 1970s, and also played clarinet in the pit orchestra.
    But it wasn’t until she branched out into other area theaters that Houston began landing leading roles. At Massillon’s Ten-Star Theater, she was Anita in “West Side Story.” At the North Canton Theater Guild, she was Julie in “Showboat.” At Akron’s Goodyear Community Theater, she was Maria in “West Side Story,” her favorite role ever, she says. At Alliance’s Carnation City Players, she was Laurie in “Oklahoma!” and Mama Rose in “Gypsy.”
    It was while appearing in “The 1940’s Radio Hour” at Kent State University Stark Campus in 1992 that Houston met her husband, Merle Smith.
    Looking forward, Houston says a role she’d love to revisit is Mama Rose, the irascible stage mother in “Gypsy” — “But the clock is ticking on that one!,” she says with a chuckle.