Telling a story of race relations in 1960’s Baltimore as played out through the story of a ‘pleasantly plump’ girl’s struggle for acceptance in high school and as a dancer on the American Bandstand-esque, “Corny Collins Show”.
Jennie Neumann shines as teen, Tracy Turnblad as we follow her quest for fame, love, acceptance and equality. Her journey takes place under the watchful eye of mother Edna Turnblad, as played brilliantly by Andy Toth – who took over the role after original lead Jay Brazeau suffered a mild stroke onstage during previews – and loving father Wilbur (Laurie Murdoch). Along for the ride are best friend Penny Pingleton (Robyn Wallis), posterboy heartthrob Link Larkin (Adam Charles) and Seaweed (J. Cameron Barnett), who all help Tracy learn and blossom from a bullied, chubby girl into a womanly activist fighting to end segregation on the Corny Collins Show. The quartet are aided and hampered by a colourful array of supporting characters highlighted by the amazing voice of Alana Hibbert’s Motormouth Maybelle, who hosts “Negro Day” on the Corny Collins Show on which Tracy thinks it should be “Negro Day” everyday! The dynamic duo of Tracy’s teen rival Amber Von Tussell (Anna Kuman) and her menacing mother Velma Von Tussell (Cailin Stadnyk) stand in Tracy’s way as best they can.
Hairspray is not all activism and ‘message’, after all it is set during a song & dance show in the 60’s, there is plenty of opportunity for great music & lyrics, by Tony and Grammy award winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The witty and innuendo laced dialogue also won a Tony award for Thomas Meehan and Mark O’Donnell. Having seen the movie version it was easy to get into the ‘swing’ of the beat but even without seeing any previous version, the songs are based on a late 60’s simplicity that makes the whole show easy and entertaining and each piece definitely made the audience bop along from start to finish.
From the wide demographic at the performance, Hairspray is a feel good fun time that everyone can enjoy! Go see it!
The Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Hairspray is now playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until July 10, 2011