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Article by Mike Narouei
Hairspray in terms of its themes is a musical which explores racial prejudice and freedom of expression. It promotes a person’s individuality and does so entertainingly and in an enjoyable way. Collab’s Hairspray attempts to convey such themes, and while in some instances, it is successful, for the most part, it is not. This result is mainly due to the show being messy, seeming as though it was put together a week before the first night. While no one can argue that everyone’s heart was in the right place, not enough time was put into refining and experimenting to make Hairspray something that stood out. In fact, Hairspray is mildly entertaining at best.
The set design was exciting for the first few minutes but soon lost all its character. The design itself was made up of neon coloured cubes that would serve as all the locations of the production. The main issue is that the boxes are only enjoyable to look at, and after some time, that appeal is soon lost. More imaginative and creative ways of integrating the staging into the narrative would be made for a more captivating experience.
While watching the musical unfold, you can’t help but notice inconsistencies in performance. Some people were engaged but had dialled their performances slightly too far into being over the top. While others just moved around with blank expressions, which only became animated when it was their time to sing or talk. That is not to say some of the performances were not entertaining, some were excellent, but they were underutilized. Therefore, this is more of a directorial issue than one of casting.
You could barely hear the singing most of the time. There seemed to have been some technical issues with the mics on the first night, and that can be excused. Though some singers were genuinely enjoyable to listen to, however this was rare. While quite a few singers were off-pitch, the more significant problem was that the performances were not exciting and had no showmanship. In general, the singing was as thrilling as watching paint dry.
The band was perhaps the only component of the show that was enjoyable, praise should be given to Music Society. While at times they tended to come in a little too early or be levelled louder than the singers, in general, their music was enjoyable to listen to.
Finally, we have the choreography, which, without a doubt, was the worst element of the show. LuDanS in previous years had devised imaginative numbers for Legally Blonde and Sister Act. Hairspray, however, had the same number done multiple times with slight variation. It was dull, repetitive and lazy. Even if you were to ignore people missing steps, or them half-heartedly moving through the choreography, you couldn’t ignore how flat it all was.
Some people showed real passion and talent in the cast. Calum Rowan once again held out attention with his natural stage presence. Holly Jones was also hilarious to watch and showed fantastic enthusiasm. There were also other performers, especially in the BAME actors that held incredible talent. However, due to poor directing from both LUTG and LuDanS nearly everyone was wasted. Collab can be commended for putting on a show, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t a good show.