Musical theatre review: Outstanding production of Hairspray, staged by Cape Town school, HS Jan van Riebeeck, May 2022

What: Hairspray: The Musical #Hairspray
When: May 4-7, 2022
Where: Baxter Theatre
Tickets: R180-R200
Bookings: Webtickets
Direct booking link: https://bit.ly/3LxZFQv
Duration: 2 hours and 15 minutes (including a 15 min interval)
Presented by: HS Jan van Riebeeck and the Baxter Theatre, in collaboration with Cape Town Theatre Company and DALRO
Wheelchair access: Yes
Directors: Rushney Ferguson and Regina R. Malan
Choreographers: Rushney Ferguson and Alex Rodkin Info: Stephan Fourie by e-mail: productions@capetowntheatrecompany.org  

See https://thecaperobyn.co.za/hairspray-the-musical-collab-by-hs-jan-van-riebeeck-baxter-cape-town-theatre-company-and-dalro/ for full production credits

Watching Hairspray was a revelation, for me: A big musical with a cast of over 40, live band (in the orchestra pit- no backtracks – hooray!), stunning lighting, costumes, set and choreography. Here we are, in pandemic times and this is the first big musical that I have seen on stage, with a live band and the bells and whistles one associates with Broadway/West End musicals. Oh and it happens to be school production. Howzat! The creative team includes professional theatre creatives like Regina R. Malan and Rushney Ferguson. Malan is a teacher at the school and she suggested that they tackle the Tony Award winning, Hairspray. The production was put together in six weeks which is remarkable. It is an epic scale show, with multiple set changes, locations, costumes and somehow, they pulled it together. All the principals are excellent. I loved the interaction between the mother and daughter sets. I loved the gestures and exchanges in the little groups on stage – side-bar scenes. Watch what is going on, away from the centre – fabulous.


In my past viewings of Hairspray, Edna Turnblad has been played by a man (think John Travolta in the film) and has been hyper camp. In this production, Giulia Nel plays Edna as a complex women and nails the longing and pathos of the character. In my previous viewings, Tracy Turnblad has also tended to veer into a camp-fied effigy. In this production, Marilé Engelbrecht delivers a spunky and assured Tracy. Engelbrecht’s accent is brilliant – spoken word and song.  This is a quickie review. I want to urge people to see this feel-good musical which resonates for us all – that we should all dance to the beat – together. It is an astounding accomplishment for a school to stage this complex musical, with the challenges of Covid. They took my breath away. Bravo!  


Superb Tracy Turnblad played by Marilé Engelbrecht, in Hairspray– staged by HS Jan van Riebeeck and the Baxter Theatre, in collaboration with Cape Town Theatre Company and DALRO, May 4-7, 2022. Supplied.
Sassy: Motormouth Maybelle played by Phumie Oliphant, in Hairspray, staged by HS Jan van Riebeeck, in collaboration with Cape Town Theatre Company and DALRO, May 4-7, 2022, Baxter Theatre. Supplied.
Class act:  Giulia Nel as Edna Turnblad, staged by HS Jan van Riebeeck, in collaboration with Cape Town Theatre Company and DALRO, May 4-7, 2022, Baxter Theatre. Supplied.

❇ Images by Martin Kluge. Supplied.supplied. Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/hairspray-the-musical-collab-by-hs-jan-van-riebeeck-baxter-cape-town-theatre-company-and-dalro/