Hairspray @ Festival Theatre, Adelaide 31/12/2022

Tease your hair into a beehive and slip on your black and white Oxford Brogues because Hairspray has arrived!

In 1988 the Baron of Bad Taste, Baltimore-born director John Waters, created Hairspray the film. In 2002, the story was adapted to the stage and opened on Broadway, becoming a theatrical juggernaut. Then in 2007, a new film version was released. In its return to Australian stages, Producer John Frost AM creates a vibrant and fun show guaranteed to delight.

Hairspray is the story of dance-loving Tracy Turnblad (Carmel Rodrigues). Set in Baltimore in 1962, Tracy, a plus-size teen, auditions for a spot on The Corny Collins Show. She is initially rejected by the show’s producer Velma Von Tussle (Rhonda Burchmore), due to her physique. Likewise, black teen, Little Inez (Ayanda Dladla), is rejected due to the colour of her skin. Tracy’s luck changes at her school’s sock hop. She gains a spot on the show and becomes an overnight success. Hairspray is the joyful story about Tracy’s rise to popularity. It also brings the themes of body positivity, social inclusion, and racial inequality in a time of segregation to the forefront of the narrative.

The Australian adaptation of the iconic story embraces and lauds the 60s. From flicked bobs, pointed collars and cardigan sweaters, head of wigs and make-up, Nick Eynaud and head of wardrobe, Elizabeth O’Toole, assist in capturing the era to a tee.

With a well-established script from playwrights Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, and music and lyrics from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Hairspray has a durable foundation. Stage manager Ben Cooper and his team build on this to create a highly engaging production.

The exceptional cast of national and international veterans and up-comers elevates the show.

In her professional musical theatre debut, Rodrigues shines as Tracy. Her excellent comedic timing and enthusiasm exemplify the energy and passion of the protagonist. Shane Jacobsen captures the transformation of Edna Turnblad from drab to fab with hilarity and style. His scenes with Todd McKenney (Wilbur Turnblad) are particularly joyous. Their chemistry is undeniable.

Rhonda Burchmore and Brianna Bishop as antagonistic mother-daughter duo Velma and Amber Von Tussle make it easy to love to hate them. While Asabi Goodman steals the spotlight whenever the Big, Blonde & Beautiful Motormouth Maybelle is on stage.

Amongst the accomplished cast the performances of Javon King and Mackenzie Dunn are a highlight. King and Dunn’s portrayal of teens Seaweed J. Stubbs and Penny Pingleton and their love-at-first-sight romance is the perfect mix of sweet and comical.

The musical numbers in Hairspray are pure bliss. They vary from the chirpy Good Morning Baltimore, the spirited Welcome to the 60s, the delightful (You’re) Timeless to Me, and the exaggerated (It’s) Hairspray. All are the ideal vehicle to share the undeniable talents of the superb cast and will have you clapping, likely singing, along.

Hairspray is a dynamic musical with heart. It balances humour and societal conflict with grace. Without doubt, this show is sure to have you beaming with glee from start to finish.

Theatre Review Anita Kertes

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