The consequence of launching Hairspray at the Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City so soon after the movie incarnation was on circuit remains to be seen, but it could well result in disinterest among those who saw the film.
I hope that this is not the case as this production is not only a very different experience compared to the movie, but in many ways a far superior one.
For those that do not know, Hairspray, set in 1962’s Baltimore, tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a big girl who not only sets out to be picked as a dancer on local television programme, The Corny Collins Show, but to also ensure that it becomes racially integrated. Based on the original John Waters movie, the multiple Tony Award-winning musical has gone on to become a hit on Broadway and around the world.
There’s not much to the feeble story, which is really an excuse on which to hang a series of feel-good songs, characters and ideas. Thankfully, these elements are all so irrepressibly charming that you’ll forgive the lack of narrative weight.
In many ways, veteran theatre producer Richard Loring’s production is a model popular show; almost all aspects of Hairspray conspire to entertain and delight the audience. In fact, you’ll have to work extremely hard not to spend its 2 hours and 15 minutes running rime with a grin plastered on your face.
Much of its success has to do with the phenomenal company of performers – bursting with vocal skills and charm: From Kate Normington’s Velma Von Tussle (eat your heart out Michelle Pfeiffer) to Harry Sideropolous’ drag turn as Edna Turnblad (John Travolta, who?) they almost all blow away the Hollywood film’s cast.
Sideropolous, especially, has great chemistry with his character’s husband Wilbur (Mike Huff) and daughter Tracy (Elizca Coetzer and Cathrine Hopkins). Dane Paarman (Link Paarman) and Brennan Holder (Corny Collins) provide entertaining and talented eye-candy while Earl Gregory (Seaweed) is a force to be reckoned with on stage.
The cast’s most uneven member is the legendary Mara Louw as Motormouth Maybelle, who most may know as an Idols judge. She simply doesn’t have the acting chops to be at ease within the Hairspray world and is, as a result, jarring – especially when it comes to dialogue (although the fact that she also wears the show’s biggest costuming misstep doesn’t help matters).
But don’t let this put you off – Louw’s truly astounding vocal chords more than make up for her initial awkwardness. Her powerful standing-ovation-worthy rendition of I Know Where I’ve Been is a memorable highlight that you may well never forget.
Gold Reef City Casino’s plush new 1100-seater Lyric Theatre, which opened this month with Hairspray, has all the bells and whistles required to stage a musical like this and promises to become one of the city’s premiere theatre venues.
The vocals are all top notch, the music and choreography are infectious and the production and costumes fantastic: what’s not to like? If you don’t leave the theatre feeling mind-numbingly happy after watching Hairspray, then prescription-grade anti-depressants may well be in order.
Hairspray is on at Gold Reef City Casino until at least January next year. Book at Computicket.