Theatre review: Hairspray, SkyCity Theatre

By Janet McAllister

1 comment
North Shore Musical Theatre’s fun production has great numbers, first-rate performances and many surprises.

Colourful costumes and the performance of Lavinia Williams, centre, are among the many highlights of this updated version of  Hairspray . Photo / Peter Meecham
Colourful costumes and the performance of Lavinia Williams, centre, are among the many highlights of this updated version of Hairspray . Photo / Peter Meecham

This bright, feel-good musical left us so happy that we were possibly high on hairspray fumes.

The volume's pumped up on the dancing and charisma as well as on the ratted hair in this tale of "pleasantly plump" Tracy and her black friends in 1962 Baltimore, who wish to dance on TV like the thin white kids do.

The problems are real: the kids are held back in "special education" just because they're black, while the villains are both racists and body fascists. But Tracy blithely dances around the hurdles and comes up with the best teenage insult ever: "You have acne of the soul". Yes, this fantasy is over-the-top (just remember, not all black women jive in rhyming couplets).

The production values are excellent: Harold Moot's light, nimble Dr Seuss-like set lets Janet Hine's enormous number of exceptional costumes shine - the slacks alone are lilac, rose, teal and lime. And the frocks, oh my. One blink and you'll miss the rollerskating angels.

Instead of eking out the big numbers, this North Shore Musical Theatre production has the chorus strut their stuff effortlessly and precisely throughout the first half. Several numbers seen here aren't included in the 2007 film (nor, of course, in the pre-musical 1988 John Waters film original), including amusing Chicago-homage prison-number The Big Dollhouse.

Sheer chutzpah turns the later ballads into highlights in the face of sprayed-stiff competition and Rhonda Daverne saves her best choreography until last. Directed by Grant Meese, Russell Dixon as Tracy's mum Edna is gorgeous, endearing and wonderfully light on his feet, while David Adkins makes a great foil as Edna's adoring, joke-inventing husband. Heather Wilcock as Tracy is utterly believable.

Lavinia Williams as DJ Motormouth Mabel steals the show with spot-on stage presence and a marvellous set of pipes. The singing in general - with one exception on opening night - is great, although the mics need to be turned up slightly to match the off-stage band.

Generous, warm, colourful fun, with a surprise a minute. Enjoy the ride.

Where: SkyCity Theatre
When: Until September 6

- NZ Herald

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