Last year’s tied Grand Final not only left footy fans with their hearts in their mouths and stunned and exhausted St. Kilda and Collingwood players sprawled all over the MCG. It also put Melbourne’s social plans into disarray.
The following Saturday’s replay meant a massive re-arrangement of people’s social calendars. And for a lot of people – including me – it meant missing the opening night of a new musical in town: Hairspray.
From memory, they pushed the curtain back an hour but a lot of people thought a Grand Final and an Opening Night would be too much in one day.
And also, to be fair, with the music of Jersey Boys still ringing in our ears, another musical flashback didn’t seem a necessity. Even though Hairspray came with impeccable credentials.
A huge Broadway hit -- eight Tony Awards when it opened in 2002. And this production directed by our own world class choreographer and director, the original Dancing Man, David Atkins. The man who now flits around the world designing Opening and Closing ceremonies for the Olympics.
And choreographed by the indefatigable Jason Coleman. He also has Olympic credentials after Sydney 2000.
So I didn’t go Opening Night but finally got there last night as Hairspray sadly nears the end of a sensational run.
Am I glad I did. What a show. It is fantastic. The bright colours and cartoon characteristics and video tricks undersell what is a stunning musical experience.
I went not knowing what to expect and was knocked out. In some ways it is a simple, cartoon-like, depiction of history [ and a love story ] like something out of The Simpsons as it depicts racism and segregation in Baltimore, Maryland –which is a stone’s throw from the White House now inhabited by an African-American.
Back in the Sixties, when black Americans were still, called Negroes [even niggers and nigras] the dream was just to sit in the front of the bus or enter through the front door.
Through song and dance – and without lecturing – Hairspray shows a new generation what that was like as a chubby, earnest, white girl tries to integrate The Corny Collins Show on W, Zee, Zee, T.
Tracy Turnblad is herself the victim of fat jokes and school discrimination. Playing the pivotal role, is a great new talent. Jaz Flowers. She made her stage debut less than three years ago in Shane Warne- The Musical. She comes from Morwell and made me feel old. She wasn’t even born when I was in jail there in 1987!
Two other standouts are cabaret star, writer, producer, director Trevor Ashley who plays her Mum – and wisely doesn’t try to camp it out like a character from Priscilla. And Jack Chambers playing the heartthrob Luke Larkin.
That’s fitting, seeing that this is a tribute to television in the Sixties. Larkin was the winner of the first series of So You Think You Can Dance? Also a top performance from Marney McQueen. You won’t recognise this vamp from Priscilla.
And finally, I’m going to do something unusual. Give three off-stage names without whom Hairspray could not work.
Robbie Klaesi, Frantz Kantor, Tracey Taylor and the Digital Pulse company. They have put together the most stunning graphics and digital special effects I have yet seen on any stage.
It may be set in the 1960s but their stuff is 2011-plus. It totally changes your ideas on sets and staging. Now, anything is possible.
And, almost forgot. Hi to Garry Scales who plays ‘the male authority figure’ and understudies Tracey’s Mum. Mr. Plaice I didn’t recognise you.