Trevor Ashley and Jaz Flowers.
Photo: Jeff Busby
Directed by David Atkins
Musical Director: Stephen Amos
Choreographer: Jason Coleman
Lyric Theatre, Star City, Sydney.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
“Dazzling” is the word for this energetic, eye-popping stage production of a story which started out as a John Waters film in 1988. Now a sugar-coated commentary on injustices existing in American society in the 1960’s, “Hairspray” revolves around a chubby teenager, Tracy Turnblad, whose dream is to dance on television in “The Corny Collins Show”. Tracy wins a role on the show and becomes a celebrity overnight. Her decision to use her celebrity to launch a campaign for racial integration on the show, provides the catalyst for a succession of toe-tapping songs and brilliantly staged dance numbers, cleverly choreographed by Jason Coleman, one of the judges on the Australian edition of the television series “So You Think You Can Dance”.
The Broadway production of “Hairspray” opened in 2002 and won eight Tony Awards. The London production won eleven Olivier Awards. However for the Australian production, director David Atkins has come up with a brilliant re-imagining of the show, utilising extraordinary electronic technology which involves huge LED screens which move around the stage in various combinations. At key points the cast, dressed in Janet Hine's brilliant-coloured costumes and wigs, interact with projected animated landscapes so that they appear to be existing in Eamon D’Arcy’s brightly coloured cartoon world. The affect is innovative and exhilarating.
As Tracy Turnblad, Jaz Flowers is thoroughly delightful, captivating her audience with a star-quality performance. From her opening number, “Good Morning Baltimore”, until she finally gets her man , Link Larsen, (a knock-out performance by Jack Chambers) in “You Can’t Stop The Beat”, she has the audience in the palm of her hand. Tracy's big, bold and initially shy mother,Edna, is played by Trevor Ashley who manages to bring warmth and charm to a role which could easily have finished up as a panto dame. His Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers routine with husband, Wilber (Garry Scale at the performance I attended), deservedly stops the show.
Fine comic performances from Jacqui Rae, hilarious and toe-curlingly bitchy as the television producer, Renee Armstrong as her vacuous daughter, and Scott Irwin as the smarmy television host, add to the fun. Cle Morgan, in a rousing rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been”, and Tevin Campbell with “Run and Tell That” provided extra vocal highlights.
If your only exposure to “Hairspray” has been the John Trovolta film version, then this stunning new stage version will be a revelation, for the sheer brilliance of its innovative scenic design and the breathtaking exuberance of its musical numbers. Don't miss it.
Jaz Flowers, Trevor Ashley and the cast of "Hairspray"
Photo: Jeff Busby