‘Hairspray Jr – Musical’ is an American musical, based on a mainly factual book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. The musical score was added by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc. The first American production almost started riots in 2002, but still ran for 2,642 performances and won eight Tony Awards including one for ‘Best Musical’.
In 2008 the UK television channel Sky 1 broadcast a series that showed every step of a tough London school as, with help of famous musical personalities, they produced their version of ‘Hairspray: The School Musical’. The show ran for 1,000 performances in London.
This 90-minute adaptation for schools is being performed by an enthusiastic cast of 8 to 18-year-olds and is Luminary Entertainment’s first production. Unfortunately, the theatre did not have many technical facilities for use by external production companies; so being a new theatre company with no money in the kitty, but backed by a wonderful team of parents and friends in other theatres, Jayde and Guy have managed to borrow and assemble a good collection of lighting, sound and headset equipment.
The curtain goes up at 8.00 pm. On this ambitious and vibrant 90-minute production runs from the 3rd to the 18th May in the Phoenix Memorial Hall, 435 Carrington Street, Hamilton Hill. The welcoming entrance hall again followed the show’s musical’s theme, thanks to Peta, Victoria, Shaani, Simone, Jodie and Emma.
The scene: is Patterson Park High School Baltimore, Maryland in 1962 – just after Rosa Parks’ Detroit black revolution. Many of her experiences are reflected in (white) Tracy’s character in this play.
Luke Miller’s set, due to lack of funds, is quite basic; however, it is a colourful flat covering the full width and height of the rear stage (art work by Silvana & Samantha Ferguson). There is a lifelike TV camera and a surprise prop in the final scene that will bring a smile.
With a cast of 30 – I am including poor Olivia whose arm at the last minute found another meaning for ‘cast’ and will be missing – At times the stage was crowded, so the director wisely had catwalks at the side leading down into the audience and the pit area where the orchestra (of 15 musicians) could have been, but the show used the sparkling quality music CD supplied by the musical’s copyright agent. With such a large cast Production and Stage Manager, Guy Jackson, had to work at breakneck speed controlling the costume changes and the numerous mass entrances and exits. Amazingly everyone did very well.
The lighting and sound design was a little limited, but Lighting Operator – Jayde Cason and the Sound Operator – Bailey Fellows (on his first show) made the show flow smoothly.
Attractive programme from Nicholas West and Jarrad Sharman.
Slightly plump Tracy Turnblad (Laura Foster – very well done) dreams of fame on the socially progressive but shallow Corny Collins Show (Jacob Clayton – smooth) as a replacement for pregnant Brenda (Ataahua Flesher). Tracy’s dozy Dad, Wilbur (Kody Fellows) lovingly encourages her.
Tracy meets her dream boy, Link Larkin (Archer Larwood), however her desire to have racial integration is causing problems as he is not too sure. Even when Tracy’s ‘well-rounded’ mother, Edna (Zac Musarra – a drag role, again unacceptable in the 60s) who runs a laundry business out of her home, hears Tracy mention ‘black and white’ TV warns her that she may be thought to be racist. With other comments like ‘from the other side of the track’ (which refers to the slums on the other side of the railway line that separates the rich from the poor), there is obviously a lot of mountain to climb. Tracy’s slightly geeky best friend Penny (Darcey McDonald – magnetic performer) is also disturbed by racism, but her manipulating mother Prudy Pingleton (Lexi Baggaley) is a total bigot and even complains about black music.
Another girl in Tracy’s class is a loud and talentless spoiled brat, Amber Von Tussle (Ebony Uetake – great) who is willing to grovel and crawl to win the Miss Teenage Hairspray title; but because her conniving mother Velma (Olivia Fellows) is producer of The Corny Collins Show, the winner looks like a foregone conclusion.
A local record shop owner is the beautiful iron-willed Motormouth Maybelle (Kika Van Wilde – fabulous voice) who brings her two black children to school. Even though the kids are friendly, her son Seaweed J. Stubbs (Rea Selepe – great mover) being a talented dancer and his little sister, Inez (Halle Selepe) is a delightful singer, most children still reject them. When asking about the audition, ‘Fat’ Tracy and ‘black’ Inez are rejected by prejudiced Velma. However, when local fashion shop owner, Mr Pinky (Harrison Ricci) wants to have Tracy as his advertising model, the school Matron (Luna Har Paz) and the Principal (James Leber) have a change of attitudes and forgive Tracy.
The various backing vocals and delightful dancers, many of whom had brief speaking parts include Oscar Uetake, Victoria Outten, David Bell, Heidi Pesich, Zoe Bartle, Sienna Law, Keiaani Richards, Charlotte Sampson, Sarah Cosgriff, Ella John, Elijah Liu, Faith Cary and Sophie Hennighan.
Many songs have been modified over the years as they were thought to be politically incorrect, but I thought that the song of the show was probably ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ by Motormouth and the Ensemble.
The Choreography (Rachel Vonk) was tricky yet exceptional. EVERY single performer from the very youngest to the most experienced never missed a beat. The co-ordination was perfect, and they all smiled!
Director Jayde Cason (Clark) has been connected with numerous shows over the years and has never let an audience down. Her pleasant nature always ensures that her cast will perform their best.
Vocal Director Samantha Ferguson has to be admired for tackling such a large cast and age group. The results ranged from generally very good to outstanding. Naturally this was a first show for many youngsters, so there was the odd nervous tremor and missed key, but for their age who could complain? No one! Just admiration.
The colourful and very 60’s costumes were supervised by Rachel Vonk with major support from Shelly Miller and Emma Foster.
The aim of this fun musical is to encourage individuality, acceptance of colour, sexuality and shape difference; but most of all it gives us a great night’s entertainment by many names to look for in the future.