When asked to review Adelaide Youth Theatre’s (AYT) production of Hairspray Jnr, I jumped at the opportunity.
This ain’t my first AYT rodeo, and most definitely won’t be my last. AYT are widely known to produce world class productions for youth performers, and this show reinforces their reputation.
Hairspray is an American musical with music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, based on the 1988 John Waters movie of the same name. The songs include 1960s-style dance music (my favourite!) and ‘downtown’ rhythm and blues
Set in 1962 Baltimore, generously sized teenager, Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance program based on the real life Buddy Deane Show. When Tracy wins a role on the show, much to the current star Amber Von Tussle’s dismay, she becomes a celebrity overnight, wins the heart of the local teen idol, Link Larkin and leads the town to social change as Tracy campaigns for the show’s integration.
I absolutely loved the original film, so I was keen to see how this adaptation stacked up. I was not disappointed.
The young cast were pure joy in a hairspray can, starting with the opening number ‘Good Morning Baltimore’, which introduced us to the characters of the show.
I was infatuated with the choreography (kudos to Thomas Phillips), and the projection design was a wonderful way to change scenes and give the show it’s 1960s feel.
Director Michelle Davy certainly has a way with getting the best out of her young cast and I really love her directorial style. Adding to this, Mark Oakley’s lighting design was superb, especially in the finale of ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’.
Matthew Monti does a cracking job as Corny Collins and has the accent and TV host mannerisms down pat.
The staging of the three part duos ‘Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now’ was fabulously done, as was the choreography and staging of ‘The Big Dollhouse’ scene in Act II.
While the ensemble was unquestionably spot on with saccharin facials and over the top dance moves, there were definitely stand outs worth noting.
Grace Colsey was Penny Pingleton pigtailed, perky perfection, Holly Abbott as Tracy Turnblad held the show and storyline together with her dreamy eyed view of how the world should be while Nathan Stafford’s heartthrob Link Larkin, who unexpectedly falls in love with Tracy was positively on the money with his teen idol eyes, voice and dance moves.
Genesis Holt, who made his debut in this production, played the hip, sensitive and kind hearted Seaweed. And for someone who is a self proclaimed ‘non dancer’ he certainly had some elastic moves!
Erica Obur really belted out the heart of the show with ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ as she remembers the long fight for equality. She was a tremendous Motormouth Maybelle. I look forward to seeing, and hearing her again.
Young Christina Farndale Mujema as Little Inez held her own with the big kids and Montana Vincent was fab as bratty, selfish princess Amber Von Tussle who would do anything to win the Miss Teenage Hairspray pageant.
The comedy duo of Edna (Justin Maddern) and Wilbur Turnblad (Harry Ince) had the audience in stitches, especially after a slight wardrobe malfunction where Edna had to replace part of her padding that had fallen out. Maddern made it part of the show and the crowd lapped it up! That’s showbiz!
Tiana Costanzo, Alessia Charman and Mateja Sardelis as the Dynamites, really took it up a notch for closing night and provided some incredible harmonies and support vocals, especially in ‘Welcome to the 60s’ – another marvellously staged musical number with colourful clothing racks and sensational choreography.
Well done to Costume Coordinators Lisa O’Donovan and Kylie Mazey – you always do a brilliant job bringing these costumes to life.
While the season of AYT’s Hairspray has come to an end, keep your eyes peeled for future shows. Not only will you be utterly entertained, but you just might be privy to seeing the early work of future musical theatre superstars. You can thank me later.
Happy theatre travels…
This review also features on the Theatre Travels website – www.theatretravels.org