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Hairspray

You can’t stop the beat of this Tony Award-winning musical sensation!

Ashley Parker Angel

Age: 25

Currently: Starring as teen heartthrob Link Larkin in Broadway's long-running musical hit Hairspray.

Hometown: Redding, California

He's the One That We Want: Angel born Ashley Ward Parker; he assumed his stepfather's distinctive surname later on got his first taste of audience acclaim while still in high school when he played Danny Zuko in a local community college production of Grease. "It ended up being a huge hit," he recalls. "They were turning away a hundred people at the door every night, and someone wrote an article in the paper that said, 'I've been to Broadway and this kid's Broadway-bound.' I thought, 'Maybe I could do theater for a living!'"

Backstreet Who? Before he had the chance to pursue Broadway dreams, the teen Angel won a spot on the first season of TV's Making the Band in 2000, which chronicled the genesis of boy band O-Town and earned the baby-faced blond legions of female fans. "The way I came into the industry was perfect for me," he says now. "Making the Band was the first reality show to get picked up by a major network—pre-American Idol. The whole boy band movement was huge, then it got blown out; the only way we made it through a window that was already closing was the TV show." The boys released two albums, O-Town and O2, before parting ways for good after two years. "From the way we came together and the contracts we signed, I never felt the band would go on for the rest of our lives," he says. "I was always looking for what was next."

Growing Up On Camera: "Next" for Angel was relocating to L.A., where he pounded the pavement for a record label willing to sign him sans O-Town. "Music skews young these days, so if I thought if I wanted to do anything solo, I needed to do it pretty quickly. I don't want to be 40 years old trying to cut a solo album," he says with a laugh. MTV caught wind and asked to chronicle Angel's struggle to make it back to the top of the music industry, as well as the flurry of activity leading up to the birth of his son, Lyric, with fiancée Tiffany Lynn, in August 2005. There and Back aired for one season in early 2006, culminating in the release of Soundtrack to Your Life in May, which debuted at #5 on the Billboard charts. All told, five years of Angel's life can be tracked in more than 60 episodes of his two TV series. "Right now, I'm taking a break from reality TV," he says, inhaling deeply. "I've turned my life into a soap opera enough, I think. It's time to play a role for a while. But I never say never, you know?"

Just Eat It: Recently, Angel's agent called with an enticing possibility: the role of charming would-be teen heartthrob Link Larkin in Hairspray. "This is the first show I ever auditioned for," he says, "and I put everything into it because I get Link. I understand what he's going through. He's this kid who wants to get his big break. It's just very close to home." That's not to say performing the role eight times a week isn't a challenge. "This show is like playing a football game to music," the lanky actor exclaims. "I come back up [to my dressing room] dripping sweat. I mean, I'm dancing in a full suit! I'm doing everything I can to keep weight on. People say, 'You need to eat more,' and I'm like, 'Trust me. I am.' It's just that I'm burning 8,000 calories a day!"

Hey Daddy: With an active toddler at home, Angel admits, "It's a lot to be a young parent and work in the entertainment industry. But [fatherhood] forces you to be a better person. Before, I was driven to be successful for personal reasons. Now I've got somebody in my life that I'm responsible for. I have to really be on point." On the positive side, Angel feels sure he will remain in tune with Lyric as his son gets older: "Most people are like, 'My gosh, you're so young,' but I'm also going to be close to his generation when he's in his teens. I'm going to be the cool dad, which I'm really looking forward to!"

All or Nothing: Angel discusses his fledgling acting career with the same zeal as when he's talking about his son. "I'm still writing songs, but I'm not in the studio because I'm putting everything into this," he says of Hairspray. "Broadway is my priority." And he's savvy enough to realize that success on a Broadway stage equals instant credibility: "It's easy to be stereotyped coming from where I've come. But I think if you're smart, and you really do have talent, you can continue to open doors," he says, citing Mark Wahlberg's transformation from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to Oscar nominee. "Truthfully, I could see doing Broadway forever. I love it. You know," he adds with an impish wiggle of his eyebrows, "this has opened a whole new world of thinking for me. Now that I'm here and I'm seeing all these other shows coming together, I'm asking questions. I heard they were doing Little Mermaid, and I was like, 'Well…who's playing [Prince] Eric?'"

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