Think you’re a high energy person? Guaranteed after watching Hairspray the musical your boisterous high kicks will look like a mediocre gym routine.
Set in Baltimore, Maryland in 1962 Hairspray follows the same story as the 2007 movie, introducing newcomer Carmel Rodrigues as dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad whose ultimate dream is to dance on The Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star and uses her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen and move the show into a racially integrated future.
From the opening number Good Morning Baltimore to the defiant and celebratory finale You Can’t Stop the Beat, Hairspray is endlessly enthusiastic in its choreography, maintaining an intensity matched only by the plastered-on perfection of the casts TV-ready smiles.
Between the big band numbers, conversations about race and identity are the heartbeat of Hairspray. It draws attention to 1960s-era racism in America and the subtle but pervasive lines drawn around certain pockets of society.
Dancing is a rebellious act of expression for the African American communities and, while Tracy may lead the charge in advocating for their inclusion on the show, they’re the ones who have carried the generational mission for equality she’s inspired to support.
Carmel Rodrigues is the perfect choice to play Tracy, and interactions between Shane Jacobson’s Edna – originally played by John Travolta – and Todd McKinney’s Wilbur are a sweet landing place for those further down the line in life reflecting on their own dreams and lessons in love.
When Edna imagines her daughter auditioning for Corny Collins her setbacks as a fashion designer play into her concerns for Tracy, and in unique ways each of the daughters represented in the show – Tracy, her best friend Penny and Teen Queen Amber – are subject to their mothers’ shame, ambition or religious fears in approaching love and race.
Hairspray is abundantly feel-good but also thoughtfully considered in addressing issues that have underlined social angst for decades.
Hairspray is playing at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre until April 2.
“Hopelander” Carmel Rodrigues Cast in Global Musical Phenomenon ‘Hairspray’
Hopelander Carmel Rodrigues will be starring alongside Australian screen and theatre royalty including Shane Jacobson and Rhonda Burchmore. Listen to her interview on Hope Afternoons.