I wrote "La Cage" when I was 28, much too young for it, and I wrote it from the point of view of Georges, the husband. Obviously I had feelings for the drag role of Albin. But I don't have that kind of voice and never considered it. So when they came to me and asked me to do it, it was one of those challenges where you either do it or you spend the rest of your life saying "they offered it to me, but I didn't do it." So I said yes, and it was an unbelievable experience. But I obviously didn't have to do the work that I did playing Edna.
That brings us back to "Hairspray," which ran more than six years on Broadway. What do you think is the secret of "Hairspray's" popularity?
"Hairspray" is an ebullient show. The happiness of it is just infectious. In its genesis from John Waters' mind, it has that bad boy, I'm misbehaving, I'm talking about things I shouldn't be talking about and I'm a rebel kind of bad boy vibe, like a kid fooling around. There's a happy, sort of silly story, though it obviously has serious connotations: A fat girl becomes a huge TV star in a tiny pond and changes the world.