The news that every Melbourne theatre fan has waited for arrived when Paul Dainty and Joel Pearlman announced that Hairspray will open at the Princess Theatre in October.
Based on the 1988 John Waters movie, Hairspray follows integration of white and black America through the eyes of plucky, plump teen Tracy Turnblad. Tracy’s repressed, and even plumper, mom Edna is dragged unwillingly into Tracy’s crusade. Specifically set in 1962 Baltimore, Hairspray features a lovingly written pastiche score, fabulous dances, hilarious comedy and an ending that leaves audiences on a massive high. The theatre feels more like a giant party at the end of the show.
Hairspray opened on Broadway in mid 2002, and was the most acclaimed new musical of the season. It won a slew of theatre awards and then went on to sweep the 2003 Tony Awards winning Best Musical, Best Score and Book, Best Costumes, Best Actor (Harvey Fierstein as Edna) and Best Actress (Marissa Jaret Winokur as Tracy). Hairspray opened in London in 2007, starring legendary West End star Michael Ball as Edna, and similarly dominated at award presentations.
Hairspray came full circle in 2007 when it was filmed again, this time as the musical version. The movie, starring John Travolta as Edna, brought the musical to international prominence, and this will be the main way that most Australian fans know of the show.
Casting the show will make headline news in the coming months as the creative team scour the country for the perfect Tracy. Nikki Blonsky was discovered for the movie and London’s Leanne Jones was also a newcomer. Big-boned music theatre ingénues of Australia, this could the big break you have dreamed of! Equally interesting will be the search for the right man to don Edna’s wigs and fat suit. Dreamboat Link Larkin, played on Broadway by Glee’s Matthew Morrison and by teen heartthrob Zac Efron in the movie, will be a hotly contested role (my early money is on Chris Durling).
The cast is in fact full of colourful characters – Tracy’s dad Wilbur has a gorgeous vaudeville-style duet with Edna in act two, Penny Pingleton is Tracy’s uptight friend who is liberated by the sexy Seaweed, Seaweed’s mom is the sassy Motormouth Maybelle, Tracy’s rivals are the self centred Amber von Tussle and her manipulative mom Velma, cheesy Corny Collins hosts the Corny Collins Show on local Baltimore tv (imagine Young Talent Time on every weekday afternoon and you have a bit of an idea).
Fans who have only seen the movie are set to discover more great songs in the stage show. ‘Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now’ and ‘Cooties’ were only heard over the closing credits and only the closing bars of ‘It Takes Two’ were used. The female company begin act two of the musical in prison singing ‘The Big Dollhouse’. It will be interesting to see whether songs added for the movie are interpolated into the stage show now, as has happened with shows like Grease (‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ and ‘You’re the One That I Want’) and The Sound of Music (‘I Have Confidence’ and ‘Something Good’).
In an interesting move, and unlike so many other Broadway shows that make it to Australia, like Wicked, Spamalot and Jersey Boys, this will not be a cookie cutter production. The Melbourne production will not feature the original direction by Jack O’Brien and choreography by Jerry Mitchell. David Atkins will helm the show as director, with choreography by Jason Coleman. New sets and costumes will be designed. William Ivey Long’s Tony winning costumes are practically a star of the show in their won right so hopefully the new designs will match this brilliance. The book of Hairspray is by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with the score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
Excited about Hairspray coming to Melbourne? Full of ideas about casting? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.
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