With a record-breaking ensemble of over 800 people and a star-studded lineup of principle cast members, Harvest Rain's 'Hairspray: The Big Fat Arena Spectacular' burst into Brisbane Convention Centre, celebrating people of all sizes, shapes and colours.
Starring Lauren McKenna as the big and beautiful Tracy Turnblad, the show was packed full of aerosol fumes, bright lights and massive dance numbers. With the biggest cast in a production of 'Hairspray' ever, the show promised to wow audiences, and it didn't disappoint.
In the radiant and magnificently euphoric opening tune 'Good Morning Baltimore', the huge cast joined Tracy and her best friend Penny – Emily Monsma – on stage. They were decked out in '60s Baltimore fashion and using every inch of the floor space to their extreme advantage. The over-the-top hair, accents and costumes kept the energy of the Brisbane crowd at peak levels, as Tracy went on a journey from nobody to somebody, hoping to change the world for the better and become a superstar all at once.
Playing the role of the almost sickeningly joyous and frenzied Corny Collins, was Tim Campbell. His melodramatic exhilaration was hilarious. He displayed the perfect, yet somewhat exaggerated, interpretation of an entertainment TV personality in the big leagues. Almost as equally sickeningly joyous was teen heart-throb Link Larkin, portrayed by the dashing Dan Venz.
Turnblad's rivals Velma and her daughter Amber Von Tussle were brought to life by Amanda Muggleton and Stacey de Waard, oozing wickedness and an insatiable need to succeed.
A stand-out moment in the show was the wonderfully adorable exchange between Tracy's parents: Edna, played by Simon Burke – yep, you heard right – and Wilbur, played by Wayne Scott Kermond. Their performance of '(You're) Timeless To Me' included lyrics like “you're like a stinky old cheese, just getting riper with age” and “you're fat and you're old, but baby, boring you ain't”. It was a high point in the show as they ballroom danced around the floor, creating laughter throughout the arena and even launching into an encore before the next scene.
On the subject of comedic value, it's also worth mentioning what a side-splitting sight it was to see hundreds of cast members in inflatable fat-suits synchronically bopping to 'Welcome To The '60s'. No more needs to be said.
Christine Anu delivered a stellar performance as the fearless mother figure Motormouth Maybelle, giving the character all the sass she needed to shine through. As her son Seaweed, Barry Conrad also impressed with his smooth, soaring vocals in 'Run And Tell That'.
In terms of the visuals of 'Hairspray', it's not often that more than 800 people dance all at once dressed in bright colours doing maxi-sized Mexican waves. Without giving too much away, it's unlike anything this reviewer has seen before.
Five out of five cans of hairspray!
'Hairspray' performs Newcastle Entertainment Centre 15-16 July and Adelaide Entertainment Centre 14-15 October.