Musical theatre is alive and well in the suburbs north of Brisbane as Pine Rivers Musical Association (PRIMA) presents their new production of Hairspray. Featuring many of Brisbane's finest talents, the fabulously witty musical with a heart finds a home in the spacious and modern Redcliffe Cultural Centre.
Many people know Hairspray from the movie adaptation but the stage play is truly something to behold. Based on the 1988 movie by John Waters, it is the story of Tracey who loves her hometown, her friends, dancing and dreams of stardom. The musical is set against a backdrop of simmering racial tensions and thus is a social commentary wrapped up in deliriously happy tunes, and feel good singing and dancing.
It may seem strange that such a well know production will be coming to a town many of you may not have heard of, but people of Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast may want to take a small trip to the seaside town of Redcliffe for a professionally staged performance and a great night out.
The actors are excited to be working with PRIMA and find it a great company to work with. One might expect that a company set in the Pine Rivers area would not have such a professional attitude and set up. But they do and it looks like they mean to keep going.
"I've been involved with PRIMA for seven years and I love it!” says Producer and Director Melanie Evans, “I have been given so many wonderful opportunities to develop my skills as a performer and director. I have worked with some incredible people and am so excited to be with PRIMA as it moves forwards in new directions. "
Alicia Poulter is playing Tracey in this production and has worked with PRIMA successfully before. She says loves the working environment they create, and the fact that as a company they strive for excellence and have a professional approach to all tasks.
Asabi Goodman is playing the iconic Motormouth Maybelle and this is her first production with PRIMA. She says "Working with PRIMA is like working with a close knit family. As a newcomer to their society, they've really made me feel welcome and part of their group. And I love how professional and skilled they are."
The choice of Hairspray was something Melanie knew would attract audiences as well as the best cast. "Once we had selected Hairspray as our first show of the 2014 season, we kind of ran with a 'If you build it they will come' attitude. Thankfully that worked and we managed to secure some of the most incredible talent in Brisbane…there were some tough casting decisions that needed to be made." So they put the call out and they most certainly came… in their droves… and this production of Hairspray is sure to set the stage on fire.
The story centres around teenager Tracey who longs to be a dancer on the Corny Collins show. Despite being plus sized and facing opposition she realises her dream and is an instant sensation. Tracey and her mum, who similarly is plus sized and who lacks belief in herself, come out of their shells and meet a variety of characters from the show and their lives change. The songs are catchy and fun and Tracey's Cinderella story is sweet and heart warming.
But there is a serious side to this musical comedy and that is the racism that was so prevalent at the time. The show features black dancers only on one day a month and Tracey wants to change that and end the segregation. This cast are well aware of the social message they have to deliver alongside a romping good entertaining performance.
The character of Motormouth Maybelle is larger than life. Played by Queen Latifah in the movie the character is well known as the sassy record shop owner and host of "Negro Day" on the Corny Collins show. Big, beautiful and proud she is a powerful character. Played in this production by Asabi Goodman, she feels she can channel the experience of her parents who lived through the era in which Hairspray is set. "Stepping into that past is always a bit of a personal struggle”, Goodman says, “as I was never really subjected to its negatives. But, Hairspray is set during my parents' early adulthood and through hearing about their struggles, I feel that I can embody their emotions, and truly step into that era."
Yet she also wants the audience to remember the reason they are there is to have fun and sees Motormouth as a happy character who loves life rather than someone to be pitied. "Yes, it was a hard time, but the musical shows that even in those times people were still enjoying life… My goal is to portray the Motormouth character as someone who will fight for what she believes in, but who isn't bitter about the unjustness she faces."
PRIMA’s Hairspray seems set for a great season, and they also have quite a large space to put on this spectacular show. The Redcliffe Cultural Centre is not a small suburban theatre. It has the space for incredible staging of this and hopefully many more musical comedies in the future.
"Fortunately, we have secured a lovely professional theatre of good size for Hairspray” says Evans, “It's certainly a fantastic step up from what we have been working with in the past. With that however, comes the pressure to give our audiences a professional quality production, our casting is spot on for this production and certainly one of the most talented casts I have worked with. Our challenge is to be really clever with set design and costume so that both help drive the story and don't exceed budget!"
The cast and crew all hope the audience take away a feeling of having been truly entertained with the songs buzzing round in their head, but also spare a thought for the greater social message, which Evans sums up as, "The importance of believing in yourself, being kind, helping people and being a good human being would be a nice message to take home too!"
Hairspray is playing at the Redcliffe Cultural Centre from 12-15th of June.
Presented by Pine Rivers Musical Association (PRIMA)
Director – Melanie Evans
Musical Director – Mark Beilby
Choreographer – Maureen Bowra
For more information see PRIMA on Facebook
For tickets – go to www.redcliffeculturalcentre.com.au