This isn’t your below-average high school musical. Actually, this isn’t even your average musical. Redhill High School’s Hairspray is something else.
What it’s about
First: the back-story, Hairspray is set in 1962 Baltimore, where voluptuous teenager Tracy Turnblad dreams of appearing on The Corny Collins Show. Against all odds, she wins a role on the show: becoming an overnight celebrity, catching the eye of smarmy-but-sweet heartthrob Link Larkin, and befriending a line-up of epic dance talents in detention. Before long, Tracy launches a campaign to racially integrate the show, and chaos ensues.
What to expect
Back to 2017, a host of high school kids absolutely masters the irony, irreverence and little details of the 1988 original – down to the knowing winks, the self-conscious side-steps, the snide remarks, and the neighbourhood flasher – performing a version of Hairspray that is big, bouncy, and infectious.
Yes, it’s a school show, so there are tech hiccups and some dubious casting decisions in parts, but on the whole this one’s a real goodie. If you go, which I strongly recommend, look out for several major standouts in the production:
- Fabio Pinheiro almost steals the show as Tracy’s kind, loud, plus-sized mother Edna. Adhering to the tradition of this being a drag role, Pinheiro creates an Edna all his own and, in my opinion, better than John Travolta’s. You can’t miss his expressive face, charismatic acting, and seriously good singing.
- Then there’s Leah-Lerato Dieterich as Motormouth Maybelle, the sassy host of ‘Negro Day’ on The Corny Collins Show. Husky yet sweet, controlled yet emotional, this 15-year-old singer’s every note is perfectly in tune, allowing her audience to relax into the beauty of the music and message. Dieterich’s voice is truly special; to be honest, I’ve not heard better at Joburg Theatre.
- You won’t be able to take your eyes off Komani Hara as Seaweed J Stubbs. This young man has the confidence and poise of a much more experienced performer, combining smooth moves and seamless acting with a gorgeous voice, and making it all look easy. I predict stardom for Hara – and soon.
- Although nowhere near as generously proportioned as any previous Tracy, Tayla Alexander certainly has the vocal pipes and big theatrical personality to pull off this iconic lead role. She has an authentic and appealing stage presence and a masterful ability to wholly inhabit her character, accent ‘n all.
Special mentions, also, to the fantastic performers who embody Velma von Tussle, Link Larkin, Corny Collins and the Dynamos.
In a nutshell
Bottom line: Redhill’s Hairspray is as delicious as an ice-cream sundae, but much better for you. It’s lovely for kiddies aged 6-17 and all grown-ups. Watch the actors’ own promo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtGTUMLDMuY
Hairspray runs at Redhill High School in Morningside, Joburg til 11 May. To book, visit https://www.webtickets.co.za/event.aspx?itemid=1468354567
Disclaimer: The reviewer is a Redhill parent, hence her attendance of this school play.