If you’re looking for the Wow! factor, look no further than the 60s: a time of big hair, The Nicest Kids in Town and the fight to end segregation.
This is the world of Tracey Turnblad, a plus-sized girl with plus-sized dreams. Against the odds, her open heart and effervescent personality land her a place on the popular Corney Collins dance show where she finds herself in the front line to end segregation and win the Miss Teen Hairspray competition.
Many of the younger players alternate roles between performances with opening night led by effervescent Georgia Broomhall with all the charm and gusto expected of a professional. Her triple threat talents were only the beginning however, because each lead player shone brighter than the rest.
Mark Stefanoff redefines star quality as TV show host Corney Collins. He’s got it all from personality to smooth dance moves and a sensational voice. Emily Wood is his equal as the scene-stealing, adorably nerdy best friend, Penny.
Since the original 1988 John Waters’ film starring drag queen Divine as Tracey’s mother, the role has continued to be played by a man and Callum Byrne delights to no end as the lovable, house-bound Edna Turnblad. Beside him, Brendan Cooney is a riot as colourful dad and joke-shop owner Wilbur.
Every show needs its villains and in 1962 Baltimore, USA, it comes in the form of spoiled Amber (Tayla Coad) and her mum, the vixen Velma (Georgia Payze). This delicious duo ooze pomp and poison, simply begging for their just desserts!
Stellar Jordan Tomljenovic and Georgia Bolton are Seaweed and Motor Mouth respectively, giving heart and dignity to the negro roles, but it’s young Eliza Oppedisano who is a surprise star as Seaweed’s young sister, Lil Inez. She’s got attitude bigger than her pint-sized frame.
Hairspray gives each of its main characters a defining moment and it’s impossible to pick the best, other than Bolton bringing the house down singing I Know Where I’ve Been. What a moment!
The enormous support cast are all in fine form too, articulating clearly in the chorus and delivering multiple characters.
Director and set designer David Gauci owns this show in Adelaide, having come from the touring professional production to star in and design the 2012 Matt Byrne Media premiere of Hairspray before helming this outing. He delivers without fail and knows this show inside out: enough to cast well, keep each outing fresh, and find both the comedy and pathos.
Gauci is well supported by Emma Knight’s awesome musical direction and seven piece band; and Nina Richards’ energetic dance routines that are well executed by the entire cast. Costume coordinators Tash Fennell and Michelle Dobie and their pool of helpers deserve special recognition not just for the enormous volume of costumes, but for their vibrancy and authenticity to each character’s personality.
A superb animated backdrop by Greg Adams, reminiscent of the touring professional production that never made it to Adelaide, gave colour and life to the set and added to the humour, romance and fun of the tale.
The cast is exceptional but it’s the dream team behind them that puts it all together to make them shine so brightly.
The season is too short for such an applaudable effort – four days at the Arts Theatre in the city. Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book is feel-good fun, with Marc Shaiman’s music oh so catchy! Despite the brief run, You Can’t Stop the Beat!
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
When: 13-16 August 2014
Where: Arts Thetre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Bookings: Book through BASS online or phone 131 246, or available at the door if not sold out