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Hairspray’s joyous opening performance brings Melbourne to its feet

August 18, 2022

‘They can keep us from kissing, but they can’t keep us from singing’ 

Much loved by many, the whimsical joy of Hairspray The Musical sets Melbourne’s Regent Theatre alight. Light and bubbly energy fills the air as the curtain rises to show the engaging Carmel Rodrigues (Tracy Turnblad) ready to welcome the new day with her powerful version of the iconic Good Morning Baltimore

Tracy is tucked up in bed… but also not. With the bed and floor tilted 90 degrees, this opening scene provides the perfect overview of the character’s passion. Red carpet strewn with LP’s and 45-inch records and a half-spilled bowl of last night’s popcorn gives the audience a preview, not only of what is important to Tracy, but of the clever staging employed throughout the show. Smooth and effective set changes embody the look, sound, feel, and emotions of the early 1960’s as the audience views the performance as though watching an old television set. 

Powerful and dynamic, ebullient, and disciplined, the opening number is snappy and hopeful. The enraptured audience cannot help but reply with raucous applause. Applause that continues to grow in glee and volume with each passing number.

Rob Mills is in his element, confident in his skilful, and perfectly cheesy, portrayal of Corny Collins. An obvious Melbourne favourite, ‘Millsy’ positively captures the eye and ear with his strong and smooth vocal and stage presence.

Sean Johnston plays a wonderful role as Corny’s protégé, heartthrob Link Larkin. His crooning vocals and effortless presence, particularly evident in the slow Elvis-inspired rock ballad ‘It Takes Two’, meets Rodrigues’ palpable joy as they convey the heady, lustful and innocent impatience of youth. 

Cast of Hairspray The Musical. Image by Jeff Busby.

Through song, dance and a witty, humorous script, Hairspray explores the juxtaposition of a ‘big’ white girl against the racial divide of America in the 1960’s. Tracy is a vehicle for the audience to lean into and feel the oppression of African Americans and by extension all the First Nations people subjugated by white patriarchal society. Her sense of justice and honour is perfectly captured as she challenges the restrictions of society still felt today.

The incredibly talented, yet somewhat abrasive, mother-and-daughter duo ‘Miss Baltimore Crabs’ Rhonda Burchmore (Velma Von Tussle) and Brianna Bishop (Amber Von Tussle) cleverly counteract the supportive and loving relationship between Shane Jacobson’s Edna Turnblad and Rodrigues’ Tracy. Jacobson is simply amazing; his ‘Timeless to Me’ duet with Todd McKenney (Wilbur Turnblad) is an absolute highlight as they convey real love and affection wrapped up in an infectious hilarity that completely captures the audience.

Mackenzie Dunn’s Penny Pingleton is a brilliant support to Tracy. Endearingly funny, she packs amazing stage presence as well as a powerful, masterfully trained voice. From dutiful daughter to strong and spirited, her awakening is mirrored by the ‘twinkling’ of her growing relationship with Javon King’s Seaweed J.Stubbs. A smooth, professional groover and shaker, King’s impressive theatre experience and ability to characterize simply shines from the stage.

Hairspray explores a variety of child/ parent relationships, encompassed by the electrifying stage presence of Asabi Goodman as Motormouth Maybelle. Mother to all, she shares her strength of convictions with the entire cast and audience, (race aside), through ‘Big, Blonde and Beautiful’ setting the scene for the explosive and empowering conclusion of Act Two.

Provoking and challenging on many levels, the lead cast are supported by the fantastic talent of the entire ensemble. With many stand-out performances, all involved in this song-and-dance extravaganza fully engage with and entertain the avid audience.

Giddy and electrifying, Hairspray’s powerful finale lifts the everyone to their feet, as the applause and laughter of the audience feeds the performers in their effortless expression of pure showmanship. Hairspray is serious and fun. Touching and joyous. Is there such a thing as a standing, standing ovation? If so, the cast and crew of Hairspray deserve it!

Perfect for all ages, tickets on sale HERE.

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