SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

16/08/2014 - 06/09/2014

Production Details


SkyCity Theatre
16 August – 6 September 2014
Presented by North Shore Music Theatre 

Move over Auckland! Tracy Turnblad, the girl with the big hair and big bones is on her way with even bigger passion – to dance!

HAIRSPRAY  – The Broadway Musical winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, is presented by North Shore Music Theatre as part of the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations. 

If you love music and dancing, you will enjoy HAIRSPRAY the fun-filled, energetic show opening at SkyCity Theatre on August 16. 

It’s 1962 and Tracy wins a spot on the local TV dance program, The Corny Collins Show. Tracy launches a campaign against the social injustice of segregation that prevents the Negro teens from dancing on the show with the white kids.  Tracy is played by Heather Wilcock, winner of the AMI Showdown award for Best Supporting Female for her role in Grease

Overnight Tracy is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity. But can an unconventional trendsetter in dance, music and fashion vanquish the program’s reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show without denting her ‘do?  

Motormouth Maybelle – a role played by Queen Latifah in the movie – will be played by Lavina Wiliams who’s travelled the world with The Lion King playing Shenzi, the hyena. She shot to fame in Australian Idol, knocked out by eventual winner and pop superstar Jessica Mauboy. Of Samoan descent and the older sister to Australian Idol Season 3 runner-up Emily Williams, the sisters were two of the girl group, Ma-V-Elle.  

As Edna Turnblad, Russell Dixon who won the critical acclaim for his role as Chris in Miss Saigon and has since been appearing in the West End productions of Top Hat and Blood Brothers – has the unusual role of a man playing a woman. This role was performed by John Travolta in the cinema adaptation of the musical.

Edna’s husband, Wilbur portrayed by David Adkins is an inventor of gags and owner of the Har-De-Har Hut joke shop. UK-born Adkins will bring plenty of humour and experience to the role as a NAPTA nominee (best Director and Best Show) for The Producers, Blood Brothers and Miss Saigon as well as starring roles in Godspell, Guys and Dolls, Me and My Girl, Oliver and Cabaret.

Also joining the cast is Luke Bird – an award winning vocalist with a penchant for musical theatre. Recent credits include the NZ Opera Company’s version of Rigoletto, Disney’s musical event – Beauty and the Beast, Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, The Full Monty and Cabaret. He recently completed a season with the New Zealand production of The Phantom of the Opera in Wellington, where he played principle role Monsieur Andre – the comedic, fun but sensible theatre owner.  Luke received rave reviews for his take on the role.

Referred to as “Broadway’s Big Fat Musical”, HAIRSPRAY  is based on the book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Director Grant Meese (Recent hit season of Mamma Mia! and Phantom of the Opera) says HAIRSPRAY constitutes one of the most high energy dance shows ever performed on Broadway. 

“It’s a fun piece written about the 1960s when segregation was a big topic in our country,” Meese says. And while the show brings light to a serious problem of that time, the plot is full of light-hearted entertainment for the entire family. 

With catchy songs and sparkling choreography, this show is a dazzling recreation of the fun that was the ‘60s. As The New York Times says, “If life were everything it should be, it would be more like Hairspray. It’s irresistible!” 

VENUE:  SkyCity Theatre, Auckland 
SEASON:  From Saturday 16 August to Saturday 6 September

Tracy Turnblad – Heather Wilcock 
Edna Turnblad – Russell Dixon 
Wilbur Turnblad – David Adkins 
Corny Collins – Andrew Allen 
Link Larkin – Greg Bailiey 
Penny Pingleton – Stella Staab 
Amber Von Tussle – Alexandra Light 
Velma Von Tussle – Stephanie Liebert 
Motormouth Mabel – Lavina Williams 
Seaweed – Josh Martin 
Little Inez – Samantha de Silva 
Dynamites – Ana Howie, Kirsten Reade, Manuao Ross 
Female Authority Figure – Maryanne Rushton 
Male Authority Figure – Luke Bird 
Black Ensemble – Nina De Villiers, Melissa Sutton, Alice Cunliffe, Ben Channing, Keith Marr, Paulo Vao, Lewis Francis, Lance Ainofo 
Nicest Kids & White Ensemble – Brie Hill, Jodie Bell, Molly Leishman, Samantha Campbell, Gabby Smith, Kate Castle, Morgan Bradley, Caleb Hogan, Daniel Townsend, George Keenan, Paul Williams, Shaun Jenkins, Jens Balzat, Lane Twigden, Travis McWalter, Vinnie Sayegh, Claire Murphy, & Manon Blackman 
Backing Vocals – Amanda Rolls, Andrea Leigh, Hannah Coyle, Chloe Hunt, Colin Mak, Courtney Dyson, Ella Cornfield, Gemma Rushton, Grace McMillan-Caires, Jackie Sigmon, Jayne Delcarme, Jayvee Lagunda, Louise Lagunda, Loren Conway, Rachel Booth, Rebecca Robins, Caitlin Penty, Warren Vickery, & Dwayne Mallo. 

Production Business Manager: Bruce Abbott
Production Team: Mark Betty, Martin Searancke, & James Murdoch

Great numbers, first-rate performances and many surprises

Review by Janet McAllister 18th Aug 2014

This bright, feel-good musical left us so happy that we were possibly high on hairspray fumes. The volume’s pumped up on the dancing and charisma as well as on the ratted hair in this tale of “pleasantly plump” Tracy and her black friends in 1962 Baltimore, who wish to dance on TV like the thin white kids do.

The problems are real: the kids are held back in “special education” just because they’re black, while the villains are both racists and body fascists. But Tracy blithely dances around the hurdles and comes up with the best teenage insult ever: “You have acne of the soul”. Yes, this fantasy is over-the-top (just remember, not all black women jive in rhyming couplets). [More]


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Fun-filled upbeat entertainment in a can

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 17th Aug 2014

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on 9 August 2014 is the most recent example of police officers killing unarmed black men in America. It is a timely reminder that 50 years on from 1962, the year in which Hairspray is set, institutionalized racism, which is the musical’s underlying theme, is still alive and well in the USA.

The entertaining musical is littered with cringe-worthy dated lines such as “chubby communist girl” and “that race music”, reflecting the bigotry of Baltimore’s superior Teflon white middle class. While in the context of 1962, it’s safe to laugh at such ghastly remarks; it also reminds me that I still regularly hear blatant cultural slurs in NZ, even though we are supposedly a tolerant and accepting liberal nation.

It’s easy to see why this infectious work has done so well: two successful movie versions, as well as the multi-Tony Award winning stage musical. Hairspray has the ‘feel-good’ factor and is bursting with slick 1960s colour and style, effervescent song and high-octane dance, as it tells the story of a plump teenager’s dream to break down racial separation through her local TV dance show, by launching a campaign to integrate the show. 

In terms of North Shore Music Theatre’s production: the team dial up a slick, fast-paced, talent-fuelled rendition of the New Line Cinema version. John Waters (the film’s writer/director) would be proud. It is very well directed, costumed, sung, danced, acted and designed. All involved should be immensely pleased with the polished standard and popular appeal their Hairspray will have within and beyond Auckland’s Musical Theatre scene.

While my 10 and 11-year-old companions adore Hairspray from start to finish, and are captivated by the costumes and larger than life characters, for me it is a rare moment of pathos that will resonate louder and longer than all other offerings. Lavina Williams’ gospel lament ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ is heartfelt, vocally stunning and wins the night.

Although Lavina’s vocal artistry takes us to a different level, the cast of Hairspray is jam-packed with excellent musical theatre performers.

Heather Wilcock has an outstanding, powerful, clear yet warm voice and is perfectly cast as the bright-eyed, cuddly Tracy Turnblad. It’s a demanding role, both vocally and dance-wise, but she makes it look effortless and easy. Heather’s natural openness and innocence allows the audience to truly consider that getting all races to join hands and dance together might just change the world, once dance step at a time.

Russell Dixon embraces the role of Edna Turnblad with absolute abandon. Because he gives Edna authenticity, rather than falling into cheap pantomime caricature, he is simply delicious to watch – in particular playing alongside the very likeable David Adkins as husband Wilber, during their duet ‘You’re Timeless to Me’.

Alexandra Light plays an excellent Amber von Tussle; Josh Martin has all the right dance moves as Seaweed J. Stubbs; and in her debut stage performance, the bubbly Sam de Silva proves she may be one to watch in the future.

While some of the other principals could be found guilty of ham acting, shrill shrieking and shouting or upstaging the main narrative, everyone throws their full talent at their roles.

Finally, the huge ensemble is dynamic, upbeat, focused and with names like Molly Leishman and Simon Paenga in the lineup, the standard is impressive.

Under Grant Meese’s direction, the creative and production teams are equally impressive, bringing the 60s to life with flare, song by song. Meese indulges in a few-well executed crossovers: a rat (!) and cupids on roller-skates during the brilliantly staged, ‘I Can Hear the Bells’.

As the dance moves become more daring, so too do Janet Hine’s costumes, as she captures the 60s break out trend towards youth-defining fashion, with the boys in bright colours and girls in Mary Quant minis, alongside the traditional longer fuller skirts.

Harold Moot’s set design is a glorious mix of black & white AV and one-dimensional ply board cutouts, all slightly ‘Looney-Tune’ cartoon in style and tone.

Ali Brill and the Cut Above Academy do an incredible job with wigs and make up design, capturing the elevation and rainbow colors of the 60s with distinction.

Top marks to the audio team (designer Glen Ruske and operator Jonny Keating) who deliver smooth sounds; as well as Mark Betty as head mechanist, for perfectly timed flying, especially during the fast paced numbers such as ‘Good Morning Baltimore’; and finally to choreographer Rhonda Daverne for proving once and for all that white men can dance.

While the use of LEDs as lighting based art-work is amazing, the general stage lighting is patchy at times, with key performers under lit, such as during the otherwise great ‘Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now’. 

Hairspray is not only fun-filled upbeat entertainment in a can; it also sheds a little light onto what can evolve when you swim against the tide of expectation and make a stand for change. Highly recommended for all the family. 

The girls’ comments:

Sophie Mead, 11yrs old: “I loved the energy, which made it enjoyable to watch. The singers were all really great, which added to my enjoyment. My favourite singer was Mother mouth Mabel. The big cast songs were sharp and exciting to watch.”

Ella Ward-Smythe, 10yrs old: “My favourite characters were the Mum and the Dad because they were so funny and interactive. My favourite singer was Alex from Gap5. And I loved her yellow dress at the end.”


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