26
Jun
12

Hairspray

Hairspray

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

22nd June – 1st July 2012

QPAC Playhouse 

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

There seem three certainties when it comes to music theatre

1. The hair can never be big enough

2. The costumes can never be bright enough

(And in the words of Tracy Turnblad),

3.”You can’t stop the beat!”.

Well you most definitely could not stop the toes from tapping at the opening night of Hairspray by Harvest Rain Theatre Company on Saturday night as a packed Playhouse Theatre was swept up by the beat and left dancing in the aisles from the moment the curtain rose.

Set in 1962, Hairspray follows the story of plump teenage dreamer Tracy Turnblad as she realises her dream of dancing on the Corny Collins Show. As a consequence she wins the heart of teen idol Link Larkin and causes quite the kafuffle with her ‘hair-brained’ idea of equality and racial acceptance, inadvertently making her the face of integration. Throw in some catchy songs, good ol’ corny comedy and a whole lot of dancing, and you have an uplifting shout out to love, equality and all things good.

For all its catchy melodies and tongue in cheek humor, there are some pretty strong themes embedded in this production. Director Tim O Conner does not shy away from the more serious side of the musical and for that I am grateful, it adds just enough grit to give the production the weight it needs to legitimise its message and remain accessible and entertaining. It is the universal message of love that permeates the heart of this show however and resonates with its widely diverse audience.

The set design (Josh McIntosh) is the first thing that grabs my attention as the show opens with a cartoon-esque bed from which Tracy sings her opening number, a great visual effect and one that is matched tastefully and effectively throughout the show by a simple yet effective lighting design (Jason Glenwright) and theatrical costuming. Choreographer Callum Mansfied is to be praised for creating an engaging visual spectacle that truly maximizes the talents of the cast and provides a high energy and seamless production, allowing the chorus to bring a vibrant energy and demonstrate some great comic characterization. Likewise, Musical Director Maitlohn Drew delivers a musically vibrant score with drive and sensitivity to both the style and pace of the production.

The principal cast handle the demands of this high energy show expertly and with a great sense of ensemble. Casey McCollow as Tracy Turnblad is an engaging performer with a secure vocal sound and innate comic timing that characterizes the role skillfully. Playing opposite as love interest Link Larkin, Dakota Striplin is equally at ease vocally, with a wonderful timbre and energy to his sound. A capable and practiced performer, Striplin’s teenage-crooner look is a perfect match for the role, and overall he delivers a strong and likeable performance.

Simon Gallaher is a predictable crowd favourite as Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad, and has the audience in stitches with his clever characterisation and sharp comic timing. Vocally, he manages the role with poise and refinement, indulging the audience with Edna’s amusing duet with Husband Wilbur (Gary Jones). Opposite Gallaher, Jones gives an entertaining and likeable performance as Wilbur Turnblad, bringing a comic clownish physicality to the role that is balanced by a comfortable vocal.

The charismatic Heidi Enchelmaier is goofily likeable as Penny Pingleton and quickly becomes a favourite with her wonderful physicality and commitment to the role. Playing opposite William Moyunuu as Seaweed is a capable performer with a rich velvety lower register and great commitment to character, although at times I felt a little more energy was needed in his sound and delivery of text, which became a little hard to understand and muffled over the music. Together they create an onstage chemistry that is natural and wonderfully believable.

Astin Blaik plays the ditsy and mean spirited Amber Von Tussle, and is engaging and consistent in her characterization topped with a wonderfully diva-like vocal tone. Playing Amber’s mother Velma Von Tussle; Liz Buchanan is elegantly snooty and possesses a wonderfully smoky vocal colour that gives the character just a touch of the femme fatale. Tod Strike is as cool as Guy Smiley in the role of Corny Collins, and delivers an elegant and refined characterisation of the popular TV host with a vocal presence that is secure and equally as charming.

For me the standout performance from the night was Rachel Dunham in the role of Motormouth Maybelle. Aside from the Act 2 knockout solo I Know Where I’ve Been that showcased her rich, legitimate and heart-wrenching vocal, Dunham consistently gave an honest and vibrant onstage energy that enlivened each of her scenes. An absolutely captivating performer who made this role her own.

So what are my final thoughts? Hairspray is the embodiment of a fun yet socially significant musical. From the spine-tingling moments of sincerity to the sugary sweet and boppy tunes that will be stuck in your head for days on end, it’s a lot of meaningful fun and Harvest Rain do it complete justice. And while driving home I did feel a little nauseous and in need of some heavy metal music or hard core indie art to balance the equilibrium, the closing number kept ringing in my ears and bringing a little smile to my lips…apparently you really can’t stop the beat!

Advertisements

0 Responses to “Hairspray”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: