HAIRSPRAY, presented by Alexander Road High School. Directed by Greg Everard. (Savoy Theatre, until May 4): Reviewed by Brett Adkins
BE ADVISED: if you’re wanting to be thoroughly entertained and soundly impressed by a mostly youthful cast who exude true blue professionalism, then I would suggest you make your way to the Savoy Theatre soon.
Because you will be rewarded on many levels.
Firstly, this is a Broadway hit musical that – although utterly American and set in Kennedy-era 1962 – will resonate only too well with a South African audience given its underlying theme of racial discrimination and tension, which is successfully packaged into an otherwise light, frothy and humour-filled storyline.
But there is also the pleasure of seeing a multitalented group tackle a show with gusto but maintain sharp discipline as they go about their business with polish and flair.
Director Greg Everard and his choreography, musical and vocal team have done a sterling job in moulding this troupe into a seamless and well-oiled song and dance machine.
They have elicited an authentic Broadway touch with fluid movement, pizzazz, style and sheer confidence that belie the ages of this dynamic Alexander Road ensemble.
Power-voiced Rachel Calitz as the unlikely leading lady Tracy Turnblad – who dreams of making it onto a local teen TV dance show in Baltimore despite lacking the physical attributes of her contemporaries – makes the role her own from the outset and sets the pace for all the fun ahead.
Playing opposite her is Dean Allison as Link Larkin, the young man of Tracy’s dreams, who also grabs the attention with an immediate self-assured stage presence and ideally pitched dash.
Backing them up solidly and delivering spot-on interpretations in other principal roles are Charmaine Zeelie, Sibongiseni Banzana, Upile Bongco, Benedikt Meylahn, Simtandile Sityebi and Kristen-Beth van der Westhuizen.
And then providing a terrific anchor for the younger set are Alex teachers Minkie Ludik, Brandon Long and Cliffie Kleb.
One of the highlights is the fantastic pairing of Long and Kleb as Tracy’s parents, Edna and Wilbur, with an appropriately full-figured Long – sporting an assortment of dresses and hairdos as John Travolta did in the movie version – an absolute delight as “she” is still relentlessly courted by her devoted hubby.
The hilarious Kleb shines in the role and the couple’s duet Timeless to Me works like a charm.
Kudos must go to choreographer Chireen Ferreira, whose craft here can be witnessed with a display of synchronised innovation, rhythm and vitality.
Numbers which particularly impressed are Good Morning Baltimore, Welcome to the ’60s and You Can’t Stop the Beat.
The orchestra delivers soaring and richly multi-layered backing, my only quibble being that some of the less- experienced singers are at times drowned out by the full-bodied sound.
But with its uniformly strong supporting cast, imaginative sets and dazzling costuming and lighting design, this is outstanding local entertainment, which could hold its head up high anywhere.