Hairspray – Regent Theatre (VIC)
Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan, Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman
Reviewed by Annika Loci
August 7th - October 9th Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Twenty years after its opening on Broadway, the original multiple Tony Award winning version of Hairspray comes to Australia. Based on the beloved 1980s film by John Waters and subsequent musical movie in 2007, this production keeps audiences engaged from the first to last note.
Hairspray is set in 1962, in the racially segregated Baltimore, USA. It follows the upbeat, forward thinking, plus-sized teenager Tracy Turnblad, who has dreams of love and fame on popular TV show The Corny Collins Show. The show stars her singing, dancing high-school peers, the so-called nice white kids, except for once a month when they host a “Negro Day”. She finds her way to stardom with the help of her other outcast friends; and repays the favour by marching with them and uplifting their voices.
Book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, brings plenty of feel good, toe tapping numbers and laugh out loud moments with the seriousness of race and identity underpinning them. The 60s style choreography by Jerry Mitchell is simple and effective. Bright and creative set design is the perfect blend of old school and modern technology, and the lighting, bold costumes and wigs round out the visually sensational production.
(c) Jeff Busby
Rob Mills embodies the over the top charming and supportive host Corny Collins and Rhonda Burchmore revels as the quintessential stage parent and image conscious antagonist Velma Von Tussel (aka Ms Baltimore Crabs); the shows racist producer insisting they steer the kids in the ‘white direction’.
Shane Jacobson and Todd McKenney play Tracy’s adoring and supportive parents Edna and Wilbur. McKenney brings heartwarming fun as her joke loving father, while Jacobson embraces the role of Edna with the gentleness and authenticity required. Their cheekily romantic duet ‘(You’re) Timeless to Me’ is a standout in the second act; watching McKenny supporting Jacobson throughout is quite a treat.
Newcomer Carmel Rodrigues was born to play the effervescent Tracy. She brought the right mix of humour, teenage angst and outrage at society, with lovely light and shade in her vocals. Rodrigues is truly a delight to watch. Mackenzie Dunn provides well timed comedic relief as Tracy’s goofy best friend Penny Pingleton, and Brianna Bishop is entertaining as the sharp tongued, vain Amber Von Tussel.
Leaving audiences on their feet singing and dancing long after curtain
Asabi Goodman as Motormouth Maybelle is commanding, with a powerful and emotive rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’. Alongside Goodman, Javon King makes his Australian debut as Seaweed. King provides amazing vocal control and eye-catching dance moves during ‘Run and Tell That’, leading a talented and vibrant ensemble.
Hairspray remains more relevant than ever, not just addressing themes of racism and body image but the power of activism, reconciliation and belief in oneself. Leaving audiences on their feet singing and dancing long after curtain, this award-winning production delivers for musical theatre lovers and new fans of all ages.
HAIRSPRAY the Musical runs at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne until 9 October, 2022. Tickets can be booked here.
Festival Theatre, Adelaide from December, 2022 Lyric Theatre, Sydney from February, 2023 For current tickets and waitlists, please visit hairspraymusical.com.au
CAST Shane Jacobson Edna Turnblad Todd McKenney Wilbur Turnblad Rob Mills Corny Collins Rhonda Burchmore Velma Von Tussle Carmel Rodrigues Tracy Turnblad Asabi Goodman Motormouth Maybelle Sean Johnston Link Larkin Javon King Seaweed J. Stubbs Donna Lee Female Authority Figure Todd Goddard Male Authority Figure Brianna Bishop Amber von Tussle Ayanda Dladla Little Inez Mackenzie Dunn Penny Pingleton
CREATIVES Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan Music & Arrangements by Marc Shaiman Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman Original Direction by Jack O’Brien Original Choreography by Jerry Mitchell Set Designed by David Rockwell Costumes Designed by William Ivey Long Lighting Designed by Kenneth Posner Sound Designed by Steve C. Kennedy Direction by Matt Lenz Choreography Re-Created by Dominic Shaw Musical Director Dave Skelton Music Supervisor Nicholas Skilbeck Australian Associate Lighting Designer Gavan Swift Australian Sound Designer Michael Waters Resident Director and Choreographer Eric Giancola