Hairspray – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review by Audrey Devereux
The Bord Gais Energy theatre was alive with an electric pre-show buzz as the young and not so young alike braved the heatwave outside to flock to tonight’s sell out performance of Hairspray. Billed as a feel-good, fun for all the family show, the audience were not disappointed, as Hairspray delivers all it bills and then some. Right from the opening scene ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ Rosie O’Hare’s chirpy, chipper Tracy Turnblad and the sherbet-pop colours of the ensemble’s 1960’s outfits, sets the tone for this crowd-pleasing, boppy, modern-retro classic.
It’s 1961 and Tracy Turnblad (Rosie O’Hare) dreams of being on the local teenage TV dance show hosted by smooth-as-silk Corny Collins (Jon Tsouras) claiming ‘you gotta think big to be big’. Larger than life is what we get with Tracy’s full on, can-do attitude and her momma, a plus sized, powerhouse of a woman, Edna’s (Matt Rixon) and her dad Wilbur’s (Graham MacDuff) support. Friendly with one of the black kids at school, Seaweed (Shak Gabbidon-Williams), Tracy finds she likes what some of the adults call ‘coloured music’ and at a time when racial segregation was the norm, not everyone shares Tracy’s enthusiasm: cue the nasty characters of the piece, former ‘Miss Baltimore Crabs’ and Corny Collins’ TV producer Velma Von Tussle (Lucinda Lawrence) and her acid blonde daughter Amber (Gemma Lawson). The story unfolds as Tracy, with the help of Motormouth Maybelle and Little Inez (Brenda Edwards and Raquel Jones), endeavours to have black and white people dancing together on her favourite show as the teenagers challenge the status quo. Along the way Tracy falls for heart throb dancer Link Larkin (Dan Partridge) as her pal Penny Pingleton (Annalise Liard-Bailey) finds love with Seaweed. Will true love win out? Will everyone get to dance together? Who will be Miss Hairspray?
The cast of Hairspray are uniformly superb, belting out the tunes and performing choreographed numbers with acrobatic zeal, the ensemble is rock solid and various, finger-wagging authority figures are played with comic aplomb by Genevieve Nicole and Adam Price. ‘The Dynamites’ shone in the ‘Welcome to the 60’s’ set piece, which had audience members whooping and clapping. At the end of the show all of the audience were up on their feet for Tracy and her friends’ triumphant finale ‘You can’t Stop the Beat’. Even a first-night prop-fail was expertly ad libbed by Edna and Wilbur resulting in spontaneous audience laughter and applause. Production values here are sky high, with a live band on-stage and clever set, lighting and costume design befitting the zingy 1960’s American retro feel.
Based on John Waters’ original screenplay, Hairspray was inspired by real events during the run of the ground-breaking 1960’s Buddy Deane TV Show, when the first mixed-race dance-in was televised live in Baltimore and teenage activists of both races spoke out against segregation. Go see.
Find out more about Hairspray here.