A SCHOOLTEACHER is swapping the books for a beehive as he undergoes a big transformation for his latest role.
Andrew Fearon, from Hebburn, is getting set to play larger-than-life Edna Turnblad in an amateur production of Hairspray.
The musical, set in the 1960s, is being staged by the West End Operatic Society.
It follows Edna’s daughter, Tracy, who dreams of becoming a dancer on local TV programme, The Corny Collins Show and landing her dream man, Link Larkin.
The pleasantly plump teenager must fight for her place on the show, but soon finds herself becoming the latest teen celebrity.
Andrew, 33, has had to undergo quite a transformation for the show, which runs at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House, in Newcastle, from April 13 to 18.
He said: “This role was definitely one on my bucket list. I saw it when it first opened on the West End and Michael Ball was playing Edna.
“It was such a fun show and I said if it was ever released for amateurs that I’d love the opportunity to play Edna.”
Andrew, who is head of creative arts at Farringdon Community Academy, in Sunderland, added: “It’s quite a transformation for the role though.
“I’ve had to get rid of my beard and shave my chest, and I’ll probably have to shave my legs too.
“And after rehearsing the dances in heels, I definitely now know what girls have to go through every day.
“We started rehearsals a few months ago and we’re having a lot of fun. The show has a real family atmosphere, and it does backstage too.
“We’ve got a lot of younger ones in the show and I’ve sort of become their mum. I’ve built up a great rapport with Melissa Cavanaugh too, who plays my on-stage daughter.
“I’ve been passionate about drama since I was a young kid and it’s great that I’ll get to share this with my students.
“I’m sure a lot of them will come along to see me in the show and I’ll probably never hear the end of it once they see me in the paper wearing a dress.”
The show is also set against the backdrop of racial segregation and sees Tracy fight to have The Corny Collins Show racially integrated.
Andrew added: “It deals with the segregation issues of the time and it does make you look back and think about what life would have been like back then.
“The show has those big issues but I think it deals with them in a really great way. It really celebrates being different and it doesn’t matter if you’re black, or fat, you can do whatever you want to do.
“It’s got the moments that make you cry as well as laugh and that’s the real essence of the show.
“I’m really excited to get started. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and one that I didn’t think I’d get.”
Tickets for the show cost from £9. To book, go to www.westendoperaticsociety.com