The New Year was brought in with a joyous, feel good, feast of music, dancing and comedy at Festival Theatre, with the opening of Hairspray, the Musical.
From the first number, Good Morning Baltimore, to the finale,You can’t stop the Beat, the show moves with enormous energy, movement, humour and appeal.
In the constellation of stars, Carmel Rodrigues in her first professional role, is a standout as Tracey Turnblad, a teenager who loves to dance. However, there are other stars shining very brightly indeed; experienced performers such as Shane Jacobson as her mother, Todd McKenny as her father, and who are joined by Rhonda Burchmore, Asabi Goodman, Bobby Fox, Javon King and Brianna Bishop, all of whom give first class performances.
There is not one weak link in the cast, including the smaller roles and the ensemble, but not space to name them all. Go and see for yourself. Of all the great numbers You’re Timeless to Me, sung and danced by Shane Jacobson and Todd McKenny, came close to stealing the show, as demonstrated by the roars of appreciation from the audience.
Hairspray takes you back to Baltimore in the 1960s, with music to match, so some nostalgia for the older members of the audience, and a revelation for the younger ones who thought popular music and dance only began in 2000. Tracey, a teenager who must be described as larger than life, yearns to dance on television in a popular show. It’s no spoiler to say she eventually succeeds, but there is more to her story than finding fame and fulfilment. On meeting a group of coloured dancers who are granted very limited time on television, she campaigns against segregation of the white and the coloured performers. Seeing the latter dance it is obvious why, as they are terrific.
The musical carries another message, that we should all be ourselves and not attempt to emulate an accepted ‘type’. Big can be beautiful as can be Black, and we can all live in mutual respect and harmony. A message, which is delivered with razzle dazzle music and lighting, and superb performances. Much praise be given to the staging, lighting and the musicians led by Dave Skelton.
This is a musical to put a spring in your step and send you out into the world with a lighter heart. A great beginning for 2023. It’s on at Festival Theatre until 28 January