Savannah's Theatre Blog


Posted in Oh, Just a Heap of Reviews, Uncategorized by Savannah on October 11, 2010

Hairspray is based on a non-musical John Waters comedy (film) from the 1980s. Hairspray the musical ran for 6 and 1/2 years on Broadway starting on July, 2002. In 2007, the internationally succesful film starring John Travolta was released. A London production of Hairspray was also released in 2007.

The Australian production (2010) is showing at the Princess Theatre. It is directed and produced by David Atkins, tarring Jaz Flowers (Tracy Turnblad) and Trevor Ashley (Edna Turnblad) with choreography by Jason Coleman. It is a fun, high energy rendition of the segregation between blacks and whites in the 1960s. I had the best time watching it was so surprised and amazed that I could see Jason Coleman’s choreography (I go to his dance school) in the routines. The talent that was on the stage was extraordinary and I particularly enjoyed watching my friend Marney McQueen play the evil Velma Von Tussle with sheer malice but supreme restraint. I also loved Jaz Flowers who had extraordinary energy as well as Jack Chambers (Link Larken) and Scott Irwin (Corny Collins) who, to me, captured the era and feel of what I know the 60s to be.

Stylistically, there were a few major aspects that I noticed: costumes, lighting and interactive projection.


For Early 1960s, notice:                                                                                

– the cute little bows at the top of the bodice 🙂                                  

– Patterned, colourful                                                                                    

– Tied in at the waist                                                                                     

– Big puffy skirt                                                                                                 

– Netting underneath skirt for fullness                                                  

* One of the girls costumes of the Corny Collins Show

 For Late 1960s, notice:

– High collar

 – Comes in just above the waist

– Geometric pattern

– Tight fitting

* Penny’s last costume. In a  scene prior to this, there was a dramatic change in costume to one where the whole cast was wearing costumes like this one.

Costumes were made to have a significant role in this musical. Up until Act 2, Scene 4 (I think it was here) the cast had been dressed in predominantly early 1960s attire. There was a change in scene 4 when the costumes resembled that of late 60’s fashion; straight, solid and geometric. They emphasised this change by going for a black and white colour scheme which strayed far from the patterned and colourful costumes there were before.

In the last scene, I noticed there was a mixture of both styles; some wearing early 60’s attire and some, late. If we let the early 1960s style of costuming represent white people and the late, black, we can see the change and then integration of styles as a metaphor. The costumes were predominantly early 60s until the end showing the power and privileges whites had. As the two clothing styles integrate, so do the people. Having Penny in what is definitely late 1960s (blacks) emphasises the message.

I also noticed that the men in the chorus, at one point, were wearing identical suits in different colours. I really liked this effect because it created more diversity and interest (the colours) but showed symmetry which was vital in their dancing.


The checkerboard lights: At one point they had lights that made a checkerboard. It was nearing (or possibly at – I can’t remember!) the time of integration on the Corny Collins Show. The ‘checkerboard’ state was emphasised by Penny’s words in the last scene, ‘I am officially a checkerboard chic’, and of course the checkerboard lights.

I liked this choice because it was not overly complex yet it still meant something.

Spotlights through audience: At certain points, mainly when there were really high energy dance numbers, there were two huge spotlights, standing by themselves on either side of the stage, that would sweep the audience. I really liked this because it added to the energy and excitement of the production. I think it added this for me partially because the spotlights meant ‘performance’ and that excited me! Although, it was an unconscious excitement at the time.

Lights on and off characters: During ‘Mama I’m a Big Girl Now’ there were three pairs (mother and daughter): Amber and Velma, Tracy and Edna, Penny and her mum. Each pair would sing a section of the piece and some was sung together. When pair A sang they would be in the spotlight (literally) whilst pairs B and C were frozen in the pose or situation they ended up in at the end of their section. I thought it made the number more interesting visually because it wasn’t the same lighting all the way through. It also meant that the audience couldn’t get distracted by the pairs not singing.

Stage lit up like a TV: The stage appeared to be lite up like a TV which was, of course, very fitting given the significance of TV in the 60s as well as The Corny Collins Show in Hairspray. The lights seemed like thin, colourful pipes. I liked this because it set the time of the piece despite the technology I’m sure it would have involved.

 Interactive Projection:

In the opening number, ‘Good Morning Baltimore’, the interactive projection was particularly obvious. Tracy came down sleeping in a bed (which was really fun!) which she later walked out of and got her bag from. There was a huge screen behind her which, at this point, digitally showed her bedroom. Jaz was able to actual open the window on the screen as well as the curtains. Birds flew out of the window after she opened it and we heard their chirping.

This interactive projection was also evident in the scene with Tracy’s parents. They appeared to jump into the screen when in actual fact they were jumping behind the screen and their pre-recorded selves appeared on the screen. It was perfectly timed and mainly for this reason, very effective.

I think this interactive projection shows Hairspray for what it is – fun!


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