Ever since I found out I had to write the article for PLOS’s upcoming performance of Hairspray I have been abusing everyone’s ears with the likes of “STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO-OOOO” and “TRACY I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU, NO MATTER WHAT YOU WEIGHHHH!” Let’s face it, Hairspray is the show that everyone wants to be a part of and for those who can’t sing or dance, the type of show they want to see.

It was just over a year ago that Hairspray graced the Princess Theatre stage in Melbourne, and it has infiltrated community theatre quick smart. It’s not just the colours, the music or the amazing characters that attract our attention to this musical; it’s the message behind all the glitter.

Tracy Turnblad wants more than anything in the world to dance on “The Corny Collins Show”. But there are a couple of problems: she doesn’t look the part, and she believes in (gasp) integration. Set in Baltimore in the 60s, Tracy is one of few who is against racial segregation. But determination is the key and our favourite big-booty powerhouse fights to dance on the show and change people’s old-fashioned ways.

Whether you’ve seen the Broadway show, the 2007 film adaption or the brilliant 1988 film starring Ricki Lake (I’m sorry, what? You haven’t seen that one? Get on down to JB Hi-Fi and sift through the $9.95 bargain bin immediately!) It’s fun, energetic and hilarious.

PLOS is bringing their version of Hairspray to the stage at the end of the month and director, Danny Ginsberg, musical director, Sue Fletcher and choreographer, Steven Rostron are on board for the ride. I had a chat to Sue Fletcher and PLOS’s very own Tracy, Ashlee Zaharin, about their experience with the show so far.

Sue Fletcher finds herself waking up in the middle of the night with songs from rehearsals stuck in her head. Director, Danny Ginsberg, has given Fletcher two very simple rules: loud and fast. This is the first time the two have worked together as a production team and Fletcher describes working with Ginsberg as a positive experience, one that has seen them “gel well together”.

Fletcher has been involved in 30 out of 42 shows at PLOS and boasts 21 years involvement there. Her most recent shows with the company have been The Boy From Oz, Throughly Mordern Mille, Beauty and the Beast and Full Monty.

Not realising the huge task ahead, Fletcher has found Hairspray to be a bit more challenging than originally expected, “Massive backing vocals show…I knew it was going to be big, but this is much bigger than I anticipated. They’ve certainly managed it in pulling it off so…we’re all excited; (laughs) that’s been my catch cry since I found out I was doing the show,” she says.

What makes the show a challenge for the musical director is the ensemble involvement, “The ensemble sing backing vocals for the entire show. It’s random syllables like “who” or “hoot” or “ow” and they have to learn harmonies and it has to fit between the melodies. It’s been a challenge for them and me.”

Fletcher believes the show is fairly set in regards to playing around with dynamics and tempos but “I Know Where I’ve Been” seems to be the number to look out for, where she has been able to “make that the choral piece, if you like. The piece where the vocal harmonies are beautiful, we’ve got the big crescendos and the soft bits,” she says.

But she is certain the cast and team have overcome the challenges a big show like Hairspray has thrown at them and confidently says “You know when you cast a show and you go ‘we’ve got it right’. I feel like we’ve cast the show and everybody is in the role they should be. It feels like the stars have aligned and it’s all going to work.”

One person Fletcher talks with assurance about is 24-year-old Ashlee Zaharin. Zaharin’s last show was back in 2008 where she played the Fortune Teller in Octave Theatre’s “Sideshow”. Having auditioned for professional shows in the past, she now aims to be involved in amateur theatre as a hobby, rather than a profession.

Almost not auditioning for the part due to nerves, Zaharin was attracted to the role of Tracy because she felt like it was the role she was born to play. Fletcher agrees that “Ashlee IS Tracy” and likewise Zaharin states, “I’m very big in personality and over the top in life anyway…so, I thought…this is me. I’m a little bit different and unique in my own little way and I thought that I’d be able to bring that with the role of Tracy”.

Describing herself as “not a dancer, I’m a groover”, Zaharin expresses her admiration for choreographer Steve Rostron, describing the choreography as “ah-mazing” and really “stylised”. She also talks fondly of Ginsberg saying he is “the funniest person ever”, and describes Fletcher as always there when you have questions, “always making sure we’re on it”.

It was of course a given that I had to also ask about stud muffin, Link, played by Matthew Clayton. Without a moment’s pause Zaharin describes him as “very cute”. Confident in their chemistry, she convincingly states that they’ve hit it off and that he’s “a bundle of joy”.

Having seen several amateur productions of Hairspray, as well as the professional Melbourne production, Zaharin states that PLOS’s version focuses heavily on the message behind the music and dancing, “Tracy isn’t trying to change the world, she’s trying to change the way people think. Everyone has the opportunity to get up there and dance, it’s not black and it’s not white, everyone’s equal. That’s what she’s trying to get across by dancing on the show,” she says. She admits to portraying Tracy in a way that really reflects this message.

One thing both Fletcher and Zaharin are certain of is the cast and crew’s determination to put on a good show. Zaharin talks of the cast going over scenes in the car park when they’re not needed, and Fletcher describes the environment as one where everyone walks in with a smile on their face, ready to go. Needless to say a cast and crew this dedicated will put on a great performance.

PLOS are excited, and so are we!

Hairspray is playing at the Frankston Arts Centre.

Performance dates: Friday 27 July 8pm, 
Saturday 28 July 8pm, 
Sunday 29 July 2pm
, Tuesday 31 July 8pm
, Wednesday 1 August 8pm
, Thursday 2 August 8pm, 
Friday 3 August 8pm
, Saturday 4 August 2pm.

Bookings: http://artscentre.frankston.vic.gov.au/Whats_On/2012/august_2012/hairspray/index.aspx OR 9784 1060.

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