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a brief encounter

There just weren't any parts for an 18-year-old character actress on Broadway, so Marissa Jaret Winokur, a Broadway vet from Grease!, did what any actress who wants to work would do––she went Hollywood. After landing some small but memorable parts in movies (American Beauty, Scary Movie) and TV shows ("Moesha," "Dharma & Greg"), she heard about plans to make a Broadway musical out of the John Waters film Hairspray. Winokur auditioned for composer and co-lyricist Marc Shaiman in his home studio in Los Angeles – the very first actress to try out for the leading role in the show that would blossom in summer 2002 as a Broadway hit – and she nailed it. Since the first workshop in 2000 to the Broadway opening in August 2002, Winokur, now 29, has embodied Plain Jane-turned-superstar Tracy Turnblad. Now in a case of life imitating art, Winokur herself has become Broadway's latest sweetheart. Excerpts from Winokur's recent chat with Playbill On-Line follow. 

Q Right now, you are the musical theatre 'It Girl.' Is fame everything you thought it would be?

A That's my joke: 'Where's all the glamour? Where's all the glitz? Where's all that stuff you saw in the movies with the Broadway stars leaving their dressing rooms with capes and glasses? Where's that?' It's not what I expected I would be feeling. I thought I was going to love being a leading lady, having fun, signing autographs, but I just want to do a really good job in the show.

Q How did you and Harvey Fierstein form that convincing mother-daughter bond?

A We met in May 2000 for the first workshop, and it was just instant chemistry. It was the same with Dick Latessa. You can't fake that. Harvey and I are very much like Edna and Tracy. Harvey is very protective of me and wants to see me soar and shine, but is very scared of me getting in over my head. We have a true mother-daughter relationship. I respect highly everything he says. Not only has he been here before, but he's broken ground here before....He's truly there supporting me. I'm never like, 'Here's a man playing my mother.' He's what makes my Tracy real. 

Q Do you have a dream role, something you're thirsting to play?

A I'm doing it right now! I always thought when I'm 50 or 60 years old, I could play Gypsy – Mama Rose – or Mame, those kind of roles because I'm old-school Broadway. I never would have dreamt of doing the young leading lady and being funny––this is so beyond anything I would have dreamt of. People keep saying what do you want to do next year? I'm like 'I only opened a week ago. I want to do this! This is the only thing I've ever wanted!'
–Christine Ehren

[[image photograph, by Paul Kolnik]]
[[caption]] Marissa Jaret Winokur and Matthew Morrison in Hairspray [[/caption]]

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