In the past, the world of theatre has had its fair share of ‘hairy’ invasions…
Who can forget Craig David’s freakishly perfect well-manicured chinstrap? Or the time we saw Steve Carell in the 40 Year Old Virgin get waxed into submission? Or that fateful Notting Hill premier where Julia Roberts flashed her trademark radiant smile, before lifting up her arms to expose a pit full of follicles flapping in the wind?
Call it what you will – manscaping, waxing, plucking, shaving – hair removal (or the lack thereof) is an activity we are all too familiar with, and it is this topic that is discussed in Tess Hall’s new show, Hair Removal The Musical, making its debut at this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival. Starring Sarah Clarke, Avalon Westcott, Darryn Gatt, Kuki Tipoki, and Emanuella Costaris, the production will feature a live four-piece band with musical direction from Laura Tipoki.
In the past, the world of theatre has had its fair share of ‘hairy’ invasions, most notably the musicals Hairspray and Hair. In this particular production, a more humorous, less talked about daily ritual with characters such as the Hairy Drummer Boy, the Greek Goddess, a waxing professional, and others, discuss the significance of hair and its removal in their lives.
“Hair removal does tend to take up a lot of people’s scheduling of their lives,” says Tipoki. “We sort of came up with the idea over a drink about six months ago, and just through throwing ideas back and forth realised that a lot of people have quite strong stories to tell [about hair removal], and we decided that, ‘Hey, why not sing and dance about it?’”
Originally from Queensland but with a Polynesian background, Tipoki, who is a professional keyboardist and pianist, grew up in a musical household. She recently toured nationally and internationally from Australia to Singapore to Hong Kong, and was the lead keyboardist in Wicked the musical, as well as assistant musical director in Chicago. “I’ve always worked with choirs and different sorts of performing groups conducting and arranging music and all that jazz,” explains Tipoki, who ends almost every sentence she utters with an infectious giggle.
Of her role in the musical: “I’ve written the music and so I’m the composer, and co-writer, and arranger. We have a band of four, so we are a little rock group together. It is sort of contemporary in style – we’ve got some funk, and some tango music, and of course, the cliché musical theatre element.”
Aside from Tipoki on keys, the live band includes Gerard Assi (guitar), Adrian Close (bass) and Andy Zito (on drums). The soundtrack has tunes that mark the highs and lows of hairy situations, from Hotter With No Fur to Just Wanted to Have Some Fun.
“Most of the music is totally original but there is some sort of pastiche where we pay homage to Justin Timberlake, you know, the gayest straight man around, just in terms of his musical style and the way he likes to ‘manscape’,” she says.
The musical is told in a series of six episodes, each detailing and examining different tales to do with hair. Full of pun-filled fun right down to the song titles and the character names (‘Fray Amend’, ‘Hazel Platinum’ and Clip Gale, just to name a few), the show, though mostly a comedy packaged in song and dance, also seeks to explore how hair identifies and positions people in society. Through the musical’s diverse characters, we discover how each of their unique hair plights reflects the essence of their personalities.
“It just seemed like the natural thing to do with my day job, which is playing for musicals and being a musician, being surrounded by hairy people and the people on stage often being hair-free,” explains Tipoki. “It is a look inside a bunch of different people in their experiences with the hair removal process and how it shapes their lives, and their experiences.”
And it appears no set of hair is off limits as Tipoki assures: “It is an all-encompassing experience, from head to toe. We are very excited about it. It is quite funny (if I can say so myself), and we are hoping that this is the first performance of more to come.”
Hair Removal The Musical runs from Wednesday October 6 until Saturday October 9 at The New Ballroom, Trades Hall. Tickets are $30/$23 and available from hairremovalthemusical.com or the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.