New design concept Lights the way

 There is no doubting that Hairspray is one of the most successful and well-recognised international theatre success stories of the past decade.

 Trevor Ashley and Jaz Flowers in HairsprayThere is no doubting that Hairspray is one of the most successful and well-recognised international theatre success stories of the past decade.
Not only did it win the Tony award for Best Musical back in 2003, but it has been helped along the way by a film revival that gave it new life and certainly ensured that Australian audiences would warm to it.
The production which opened in Melbourne last year, and moved to Sydney on Thursday, is brand new – it takes full creative licence and creates something never seen in the world before.
That creative licence has developed an amazing set, made up of LED screen panels which depict much of the traditional set structure, but allow for new visual tricks that otherwise wouldn’t have been in possible.
It turns the musical about Tracy Turnblad’s quest for celebrity on ‘The Corny Collins Show’ into a visual feast, almost stealing the limelight from the story itself, (which of course, is meant to be a light-hearted but poignant look at discrimination in the 1960’s and the breaking down of racial barriers).
For example, the incredible scene where Edna Turnblad (Trevor Ashley, pictured left) and Wilbur Turnblad (Grant Piro) dance together and have their costumes changed by the magic of technology is pure genius.
Such technology has been tried on a lesser scale before and not worked, and it does have the potential to threaten the integrity of theatre at a traditional level, but in this case, it works wonderfully well; and takes the modern musical to a whole new technological world. Hairspray has now set the mark for others to reach.
Away from the screens, the cast is stellar, with Ashley’s portrayal of Edna stealing the show – he is hilarious, free and clearly at home with a role that you could not imagine any other Australian performer in.
Jaz Flowers, pictured right, is superb as Tracy Turnblad (and looked stunning at the after party, I might add) and given she rarely leaves the stage throughout the show, it is an energetic and first class performance.
Taking the cake though, is Esther Hannaford in the role of Penny. She seems to understand the genre, the role, the comedy and the laughs – and she gets plenty of them. She’s a first class performer who gets it so right.
Jack Chambers is great as Link, though one would like a bit more energy when he first introduces himself. The big ‘And I’m Link’ moment deserves more punch. 
Hairspray is a fun, energetic show with a top Australian cast that deserves to be seen. I’ve never quite agreed with its Tony in 2004 (and I’ve seen the Broadway production), but this takes the whole Hairspray concept to a whole new level and is without doubt one of the shows of the year

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