Review by Michelle Fisher
Its Kitsch, its corny and yet somehow it works and provides a great fun night out as one of the musical theatre revivals currently on stage in Sydney.
With its bold coloured set and 1960’s costuming there is nothing modern or new in this Sydney version of Hairspray and yet it is perhaps this homage to the original show, which first premiered on Broadway in 2002, that makes this production such a delight.
After the last version of Hairspray, we saw on our stages that incorporated many technical elements and projections on screens etc this version goes back to the original set- “Bold Bright and Big”(which honestly is the core of this feel good musical) and it works. It’s on theme and it’s fun.
Set in 1962 Baltimore, this musical is the story of Tracy Turnblad, the big haired, big-hearted teen with a full figure who wants nothing more than to dance on the Corny Collins show. Carmel Rodrigues takes on the role of Tracey and is for the most part a very good Tracey. Her vocals are clear, her smile infectious and her performance lively.
Best friend Penny however would have to be one of my personal favourite characters in this show (or any show for that matter) and Mackenzie Dunn does a fabulous job of portraying the ever loyal/goofy Penny with great comedic timing.
The other stand out performance for me was from Javon King playing Seaweed - he has every move and every beat honed to a fine art and is a joy to watch on stage. His vocals are as electric as his dance moves and the audience love him.
Shane Jacobsen as Edna and Todd McKenney as Wilbur bring the experience to this team and together, they play off each other perfectly. Their duet “You’re Timeless to Me “is one of the comic highlights of this musical and they manage to crack even each other up at the ridiculousness of it all.
There are many messages in this musical – Body image, racial tensions , true acceptance , standing up for what you believe is right and yet this musical throws them all at you wrapped in feel good lyrics and a sense of fun that doesn’t make it seem at all preachy. I have loved this show since I first heard the album in 2002 and have seen it performed on many stages since. It is testimony to the genius music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and the excellent book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan that despite the 20 years that have passed since this show debuted, the story still feels relevant, fresh and deeply authentic.
Jerry Mitchell’s original choreography, which has been recreated by Dominic Shaw is infectious - it is perfectly period in its acknowledgement of the moves and flows of 1960s choreography, and yet feels new and alive. It is expertly performed by the incredibly strong ensemble made up of 26 Ensemble members, Dynamites and Swings. This large team showcased some incredible voices with vocal riffs flying, and even stronger dance moves. The precision of these dancers is integral to the achievement of the 1960s feel and this Ensemble delivered in spades.
For the original cast of Hairspray, this show, for many of them, was a career maker. I hope the same is true for many of the extremely talented people on our Aussie Hairspray stage.
A really fun night out - you can never go wrong with Hairspray…20 years later and the same remains true, you just can’t stop the beat!
Image Credit: Jeff Busby