It's musical season in Dubai and we were there on opening night
Time Out Dubai staff
This week sees two crowd-pleasing musical theatre productions hit our stages: the gritty ’80s-based story of Fame and the fun and hilarious ’60s-based Hairspray.
Both are the result of open auditions, and both combine amateurs and professionals with mixed results.
Here’s what we think of them.
This summer workshop production, the result of open auditions in Dubai and just over two weeks of rehearsals, stars a handful of Hairspray’s West End cast as well as a bucket load of keen Dubai amateurs. The result is, to be honest, a mixed bag. Proud parents filled the theatre, as did a lot of Dubai musical theatre enthusiasts: the former walked out glowing and the latter ambled out a little bewildered.
The first half was full of sound issues (we couldn’t hear half the singers) and some shaky and nervous performances. However, by the second half things picked up: some local talents showed off great voices, particularly Jamie Whitwell who played Link Larkin and Kate Hargreaves who played Penny Pingleton. Others who lacked the voice had great stage presence, like Amy Milns as Velma Von Tussle and Janine Zack as Motormouth Maybelle. By the end of the performance we were clapping and whooping, the infectious nature of Hairspray well and truly under our skin, but if you’re going along, just remember, this is effectively amateur theatre.
Best performances: The West End stars naturally stole the show. Particularly Leanne Jones who was faultless and at ease in the shoes of Tracy Turnblad (a role that she won an Olivier Award for) and Antony Stuart-Hicks who pulled a hilarious Edna Turnblad out the bag (although we could have done with some more meat on his/her bones).
Best song:You’re Timeless to Me by Edna and Wilbur Turnblad – this was the only time we genuinely chuckled in the show – the innuendo packed lyrics risqué for a Dubai production. Hairspray continues at Centrepoint Theatre in Ductac, Mall of the Emirates until July 17th
It was difficult to tell the amateurs from the professionals in Dubai’s first ever showing of Olivier Award-nominated production Fame: The Musical last night – although we’re not sure this was an entirely good thing. While the performance was sold to us (at Dhs130 a pop) as part youth drama, mainly real deal – the balance seemed to be actually tipped the other way. That’s not to say it wasn’t a heartwarming experience. Amongst an audience packed full of beaming proud family and friends, we watched as the cast of more than a hundred danced and sang through numbers loosely tied together by romance, ambition and the importance of education, all set in a performance school in the early ’80s.
As well as the variety in singing abilities (the acting and dancing was good throughout), the second big issue was the sound quality. Unfortunately younger singers were often drowned out by extremely loud music and mics weren’t turned on quite quickly enough. However, the show was entertaining overall with the strength of the original script and scores still shining through.
Best performances: Mabel Bacusmo as Mabel Washington, whose comedy and singing skills roused the biggest applause of the night, and the ensemble Olivier Award-winning pro Rachel Berry as long-suffering teacher Miss Sherman.
Best song: Mabel Bacusmo’s stunning rendition of gospel number Mabel’s Prayer, which suddenly upped the game in the second half. Fame continues at First Group, Madinat Theatre until July 17 For tickets to both shows go to www.timeouttickets.com.
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Simran Sampat Aug 04, 2010 07:12 am
To all those who put down Hairspray in front of Fame, i am very sorry to say but you should not be comparing the two.
I was a part of Hairspray and to be honest, you cannot expect amateur performances to be perfect the first night itself.
If you saw the last show of Hairspray, I can GUARANTEE you, you would not be able to sit on your seat thinking it could be better.
Performances can ALWAYS improve, but it was still the best show there could have been.
I wasn't a main lead, but if I was, I can tell you that I would have been nervous too.
Nervousness and anxiousness is a very normal thing in a performance (especially solo) and I do not think anyone should be criticized for that.
Sorry if you think this is rude, but to Miss Sarah Holt, I think you do not have the value for money, because to leave a show like Hairspray in the interval just shows how unconsiderate you are.
You should have given us performers a chance to prove ourselves, because we were much better in the second half.
I know you would not agree, but if you ask the audience of the last show, they would tell you very honestly how good we were.
I do not mean any offense, but it just agitates me how people can just not care and not give things like that even a single thought.
Oh, and about Janine (Motormouth) and Amy (Velma) not having a good voice, I think you should ask people who have a good knowledge of music. As already mentioned, Velma is supposed to be a revengeful character, so she is supposed to sing with a revengeful voice and she is supposed to screech. And as for Janine, she is a beautiful and brilliant singer, so I suggest you should not say she cannot sing well.
Lisa Whiteman Jul 21, 2010 05:22 am
I saw Hairspray with some friends, at first i was suprised that most of the cast were kids, but it was great, and quite funny...i think it was good that some of the London cast came to Dubai and worked with the locals here, and i enjoyed it, yea sure it was not Broadway but it was in a community theatre so you cant expect the lights and stage of Broadway, but all in all was a good night out, and well done to all the kids....thanks.
Janet Jul 20, 2010 09:27 pm
Seriously folks - I saw both, and both were good productions. The previous comment is however a little unfair. Fame charged 75aed the night I saw it - hardly expensive, and 130aed all other performances, still gooed value. Did you not see the show? It was good value for money in my opinion. Hairspray was too expensive I feel at 185aed per ticket and I expected more to be honest. However, to say that Summer Suprises paid for them all is completely wrong. I know for a fact that there is little cash support for these productions from the authorities so they have to pay for the production somehow right? I would think like anything else, theatre in Dubai isn't cheap to produce so be fair, and don't expect a big musical to be price at 50aed!
As for the performances, Hairspray was fun, had some good performances, but some of the adult lead roles were played by kids, which I didn't expect. Also I felt the set was very basic, and lighting bad in places. It all seemed rushed. Fame was presented better - it had a big set and it seemed more money and time had been put into the presentation. I just prefer the musical myself - and the performances were more real. Some of the lead roles were played by amateurs sure, but they were just as good as the professionals seriously!
They must be doing something right cause it was sold out the night I went and a friend went later in the week to get tickets and they said it was sold out for the run.
Stuart Jul 19, 2010 04:04 pm
Are you kidding?
As an event organiser in Dubai myself I know for a fact that these producers get no financial support from DSS, simply association! Media partners will also I expect be barter deals.
Personally I thought 130AED was a very fair price for this marvellous show.
Kevin Jul 19, 2010 01:55 pm
I think the lot of you have no right to critisice. Unless you've done what they've done, spend hours rehursing, gone through nervous auditions, you don't have the RIGHT to criticise them. And it would be ok if you gave HELPFUL comments. Instead of moaning about money or sound. You should all be ashamed! I saw both and loved them.