Hairspray. Presented by Showbiz Christchurch. Director/Choreographer Leigh Evans. Musical Director Richard Marrett. Isaac Theatre Royal. 8 – 18 June, 2016. Reviewed by Kineta Knight Booker.
Driving music, spectacularly bright and beautiful costumes, high physical and vocal energy, and the nicest smelling theatre in town – Hairspray certainly made its mark last night.
Set in 1962, Baltimore, Tracy Turnblad (Lucy Porter) has the dream of dancing on The Corny Collins Show. Her mother Edna (Antony Saywell) refuses to let her because she doesn’t want her to be laughed at because of her size. But Tracy’s father Wilbur (Warwick Shillito) supports her, she skips school and wins a part on the show. Hairspray is not just about the big musical numbers but addresses important moments in history such as integration, and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
You know a person is absolutely made for a role when they open their mouth and magic comes out, and despite there being an entire cast on stage, they’re the only person you see. Porter was made for the role of Tracy. She’s a vivacious ball of vibrant energy, talent and fun. And Tracy’s kooky sidekick Penny (Ailis Oliver-Kerby) is also a complete joy to watch.
Shillito once again shines on the Showbiz stage in his role as Wilbur who runs the Har-De-Har Hut. Shillito’s energetic stage presence is delightful and lovable.
And then there’s Tracy’s mother… During the show, the gentleman sitting to my right kept saying to his wife, “No… that’s not a man… is it?”, and then following the show, the gentleman sitting to our left said “That wasn’t a bloke, was it?” Saywell, you make an incredibly convincing Edna. You’re dynamic, humorous, and a pleasure to watch in this role made famous by cult actor Divine in the 1988 original movie of Hairspray, and then John Travolta in the massive movie hit of 2007.
Lou Days’ return to the Showbiz Christchurch stage is a very welcome one, with her soulful maturity. Her “bucket list” role of Motormouth Maybelle had some audience members on their feet applauding following her powerhouse rendition of I Know Where I’ve Been. I can’t say I’ve seen something like that happen during a theatre performance before, and it certainly added to the impact of the show.
The set design by Harold Moot was spectacular. It was grand and colourful, and there’s a real treat during the curtain call. And how Diane Brodie manages the hundreds of costumes is a mystery, and her 26-strong team of assistants have got a lot of work on their hands. The happy, bright and beautiful costumes are enviable as the audience watches in their dark clothing.
Hairspray is on for only ten days, and it’s a show you’ll need to see more than once as there is so much happening on stage.
Showbiz, that’s two out of two this year, after the sell-out success of Mamma Mia. One more to go in 2016, and if Evita is anything like these two, it’s going to be a goodie.