I really enjoy going to see musicals but even with ample opportunity to see award-winning musical Hairspray both in Australia and overseas, for some reason I thought it was going to be too corny, too kitsch, for me to enjoy.
How wrong I was. I LOVED Hairspray. I can even safely say that it’s the best live performance I’ve seen in a recent memory. That includes Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya (with Cate Blanchett, John Bell, Richard Roxborough, Hugo Weaving) and Bell Shakespeare Company’s production of Twelfth Night.
Hairspray is a big, bold and colourful show full of boppy, toe-tapping tunes. The dancing was sharp and joyous, the singing was superb, I liked the early 60s costuming and the interactive, cartoonish set and you could really tell that the performers loved their jobs. It touches on issues like discrimination, segregation and racism, but it’s never earnest – it’s 2.5 hours of rollicking good fun that will have you smiling and feeling good when you leave.
I’ve not seen the movie of the same name (starring John Travolta) but I can’t imagine it topping the magic of live theatre. Sometimes a cast is able to feed off the positive energy of the audience and I really felt this two-way communication at the matinee performance I attended. The love in the room was palpable and as the= performers took their bows you could see that they were moved by the emotion in the room. I really think the enthusiastic audience encouraged the cast to give 110% of themselves into their singing and dancing and it really made the performance special for me.
Particular mention must go to the pitch-perfect performance of Jaz Flowers as big-hearted lead character Tracy Turnblad. The 22-year old from Gippsland has a story straight from A Star is Born – her professional debut was only in 2009 and Hairspray is her first lead role. She was charming, sweet and a girl with a big voice. A sensation.
One final note. The cheap seats are not bad seats in the Princess Theatre! I paid $50 (the cheapest seats) for a restricted view seat in the stalls (S11) and had a brilliant view. The pole obscured the tiniest bottom corner of the stage where none of the performers went and I could see pretty much the full set. It’s a bargain.