|Brianna Bishop (Amber Von Tussle) - Bobby Fox (Corny Collins) - Carmel Rodrigues (Tracy Turnblad) and company in "Hairspray"
Jerry Mitchell (Australian production directed by Matt Lenz)
by Jerry Mitchell (re-created by Dominic Shaw)
by David Rockwell – Lighting Designed by Kenneth Posner
designed by William Ivey Long - Hair & Wigs designed by Paul Huntley
Designed by Julian Spink – Musical direction: Dave Skelton.
John Frost for Crossroads Live.
Theatre Sydney 9th February to 2nd April 2023.
performance on 19th February reviewed by Bill Stephens.
Based on a
film by John Waters, “Hairspray” opened on Broadway in 2002 and was an instant
hit. This is that same production which even after 20 years is as shiny and
polished as a new pin and perfectly recast
and performed by a topline cast of some of
Australia’s most experienced and
popular musical theatre performers who share the stage with some talented
newcomers likely to become the stars of tomorrow.
is vivacious Carmel Rodrigues, making her professional musical theatre debut as
Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teenager who dreams of dancing on a national TV
show. Rodrigues has the audience in the palm of her hand from her very opening
number “Good Morning Baltimore” until the rousing finale, “You Can’t Stop The
Beat” singing and dancing with such captivating joie de vivre that it’s absolutely
|Shane Jacobson (Edna Turnblad) - Todd McKenney (Wilbur Turnblad)
unrecognisable as Tracy’s adoring and independent mother, Edna Shane Jacobson cleverly
sidesteps the temptation to camp it up, instead creates an adorable motherly
character who overcomes her own body shape inhibitions to champion her
impressive is Todd McKenney with his warm, supportive characterisation as her
husband, Wilber. Their delightful second act duet, “You’re Timeless To Me” had
the matinee audience audibly swooning with delight.
|Rhonda Burchmore (Velma Van Tussle) and admirers in "Hairspray"
against type, Rhonda Burchmore is both stylish and hilarious as the snippy TV
producer, Velma Von Tussle. Her
befuddled response upon being handed a poisoned chalice as a reward for the
unearned success of the Corny Collins Show is priceless.
casting as the star of the Corny Collins Show, Bobby Fox doesn’t have a lot to
do, but brings such style and
sophistication to his role as to beggar the question as to why he hasn’t
already been snapped up by some enterprising television company.
of style, keep your eye out for Donna Lee, who plays several characters under
the all-purpose label of ‘Female Authority Figure”. She’s hard to recognise,
because each of her characters are so different. But here’s a hint; she’s the
one that nails every one of her laugh lines with unerring accuracy.
It says a
lot about the talent on show in musical theatre in Australia currently that
this production can field a cast of talented coloured actors to meet the
requirements of the script.
|Todd McKenney (Wilbur Turnblad) - Asabi Goodman (Motormouth Maybelle) Mackenzie Dunn (Penny Pingleton) - Shane Jacobsen (Edna Turnblad) - Carmel Rodrigues (Tracy Turnblad)
among them is Asabi Goodman as Tracey’s ally, the unlikely named Motormouth
Maybelle, in her fight against racial discrimination. Goodman’s powerful
rendition of the big ballad, “I Know Where I’ve Been” almost stops the show.
stand-out among the black cast is Javon King who plays a character named
Seaweed J. Stubbs. King is a remarkable dancer with an arresting fluid style
that signals his sheer love of movement and brings to mind the late, great,
Ronne Arnold. Like Arnold, he’s a joy to watch.
|Mackenzie Dunn (Penny Pingleton) - Javon King (Seaweed J. Stubbs)
Carmel Rodrigues (Tracy Turnblad) - Sean Johnston (Link Larkin)
this cast is packed with talent. Watch out for Ayanda Dladla for plays Little
Inez; Brianna Bishop as the delightfully self-centred Amber Von Tussle;
McKenzie Dunn who’s captivating as Tracy Turnblad’s bestie, Penny Pingleton;
and Todd Goddard, another who plays a variety of characters as the “Male Authority Figure”. All are
This highly polished production of “Hairspray”, with its sweetly delivered messages around body image, racial inclusiveness and tolerance, and a catalogue of hummable songs is guaranteed to send you out of the theatre with a spring in your step. Did I like it? Guess?
Images by Jeff Busby
This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au