Hairspray (Adelaide Season) – Theatre Review

Hairspray, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, with a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, first hit the stage in August 2002, over 20 years ago! Hairspray is a fun and laughter filled jaunt with a great message that is still quite relevant today.

The musical is set in the 1960s and revolves around ‘The Corny Collins Show’, an after-school show for teenagers featuring beautiful young girls and handsome young boys singing and dancing. When a spot on the show becomes available, Tracy Turnblad jumps at the chance to audition, and much to her mother’s surprise, lands the role on the show and becomes a huge overnight hit! With this new fame, Tracy attempts to make some good in this world, and pushes for for the African American performers to be on the show regularly, who are currently banned from television. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds and we follow Tracy‘s spirited journey through family, friendship, love, and equality.

I also absolutely loved the staging of this show! A bulbous square proscenium was installed at the front of the stage, giving the feeling you were watching a vintage television, which I found to be so clever and creative. Behind that were different set pieces and drops that create different locations and were cartoonish in style, for example the Corny Collins studio was full of microphones and cameras. It was incredibly intricate, and I really loved the style they had used. It really had an authentic feeling 60s vibe to it as well.

When it comes to the costumes, there’s one thing that really stands out: colour! Everything is so colourful and vibrant much like the 60s inspiration, and it added so much to the show. The costume creatives really need to be commended for their work here! I loved all the long flowing skirts and dresses and the incredibly well-cut suits that the cast were dressed in.

Hairspray is jam packed with so many lovable characters. Tracy Turnblad, played by Carmel Rodrigues, is unbelievably likeable with her blown up hair, sparkling eyes, and charming smile. Watching her on stage was a blast. Backed up by her shut in mother Edna, portrayed amazingly by Australian screen star Shane Jacobson and her eccentric inventor father Wilbur, played by stage legend Todd McKenney, the trio formed a solid base for the show and shared amazing chemistry on stage, particularly between Jacobson and McKenney. The pair were sensational and the whole theatre were in hysterics whenever they were on stage together.

A standout for me though was worldwide stage sensation Rhonda Burchmore as the cruel, sassy, and ignorant Velma Von Tussle. For a character that is supposed to be the villain of the show, she shined incredibly with her excellent comedic timing, incredible vocals, providing an outstanding performance. I found her portrayal to be hilarious with such great confidence, no filter, and a little bit of naivety. 

Another standout was Asabi Goodman who graced the stage as Motormouth Maybelle, a DJ and record store owner on the forefront of the black power movement. Goodman has a commanding stage presence and an absolutely killer voice to boot! It’s no surprise she also had a singing role in the Elvis biopic released this year! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for her future projects.

I could go on about how great this cast was, but they all work so incredibly well on stage together, and genuinely look like they’re having a blast while performing, plus the fun is incredibly infectious. The entire crowd was laughing, some were crying and for the duration of the musical, I was sitting happily in my seat with the biggest silly grin on my face. It’s easy to see why this musical is so popular.

So, in case you haven’t realised it yet, I really enjoyed the show! I can honestly say there’s no better way to spend a few hours than heading along to this fantastic production of Hairspray. You’ll be tapping your feet, bopping along to all the catchy songs, and grinning like a dork the whole way through, and you won’t be alone either!

Hairspray is playing now until January 28th 2023 in Adelaide’s Festival Theatre before heading to Sydney in February.
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Photography by Jeff Busby.

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