Synopsis from the Hairspray Australia website: Hairspray is based upon the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters, with a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The original Broadway production was directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell.
In Hairspray, it's 1962, the '50s are out and change is in the air. Baltimore's Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion - to dance. She wins a spot on the local TV dance programme, 'The Corny Collins Show' and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. But can a trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the programme's reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show without denting her 'do? Only in Hairspray! Welcome to the '60s!
I've wanted to see Hairspray for around four years now. I'm a huge fan of the Johnn Waters film (and of John Waters in general) and you should all, by now, know my love for musical theatre runs pretty deep. I was a little bit nervous, mostly hoping it was as good as I'd built it up to be in my head. I shouldn't have wasted time worrying, because it was fantastic! Honestly, Hairspray was one of the best shows I've seen in years (and I've seen my fair share). It's a really strong dance show (if you prefer your musicals dark, broody and full of heavy ballads, like Les Mis and Phantoms this probably isn't the show for you), because Hairspray is kitsch, technicolour and unashamedly camp.
One thing that I think will surprise a lot of people about this production of Hairspray is the use of digital screens. There is no sets at all. I've seen a few shows utilise this (Hair being the example which best springs to mind) and it works well within certain settings and I think in this case, it's a success - it's kind of kitschy and fun and as the Princess Theatre has quite a small stage, I think it allows for the optimum use of space and snappy scene changes.
Performance wise, I was very impressed with the strength of the cast (despite the show only one week into it's professional run). Jaz Flowers was clearly the standout perfomer in the role of Tracey and is a complete triple-threat and a joy to watch. I was also pleasantly surprised with Jack Chambers as Link Larkin (who is best known for winning Australia's So You Think You Can Dance). I felt like both Renee Armstrong (Amber) and Esther Hannaford (Penny) were maybe a tad over-the-top, but then again the show is totally camp and silly (and I said the same thing about Lucy Durack in Wicked originally and she chilled out a little the next time I saw it). Jason Coleman's choreography is amazing and again, makes incredible use of a rather restricted stage. Randomly, everytime I watch Hairspray (either the 1988 or the 2007 version), it makes me wish I knew how to Madison!
One of my other favourite aspects of the show was the drool-worthy costumes! Seriously, just wow. The guys all wore the most fabulous suits (from a rainbow palette!) and every single dress was beautiful (and I wanted to take them all home with me). Anyway, I highly recommend checking it out if you're in Melbourne! Also to note, it is quite a family-friendly show (despite dealing with serious issues, there is still a definite sense of fun and was plenty of children in the audience on Sunday). There are a few slightly more adult jokes, most will fly straight over the kidlets heads, and will make the adult-audience members chuckle. I've already bought tickets to see it again in December!