Hairspray and Fame reviewed

It's musical season in Dubai and we were there on opening night

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.

Hairspray

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

To read the Fame review, click here.


Fame: The Musical

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.

To read the Hairspray review, click here.

Have you seen the shows? Tell us what you thought of them with a comment below

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