At the Melbourne season opener, watch Shane Jacobson transform into Edna Turnblad


Shane Jacobson’s transformation into Edna Turnblad, the confined matriarch of stage show hair spray, is supposed to take about 25 minutes, but today it takes over an hour. It’s the musical’s first dress rehearsal in 1962 in Baltimore, and Jacobson isn’t just getting his fill of Edna, he also has to get rid of all the beard before the makeover can even begin.

“There’s a small team of panel beaters who come in and make it happen,” he says while meticulously running an electric razor over his face to remove every last bit of stubble.

Shane Jacobson appears as Edna Turnblad at the Regent Theater in Melbourne for Hairspray.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Jacobson, who is best known for his sleight of hand as plumber dunny Kenny and pie-munching cop Barry in Irish Jackas well as his love of muscle cars, will spend much of the next few months with make-up and costume artists in this little piece of backstage room at the Regent Theatre, a building where all the grandeur is definitely out front.

“I feel naked without a beard, really,” he says as the last of his shadow disappears, until 5 a.m. tomorrow anyway. “If I could grow hair over my eyes and my nose, if I could be Teen Wolf, I would.”

Now makeup artist Beth Haywood can start working. First, she makes her eyebrows disappear – not for good, just under a good coat of wax. Then the foundation goes on, a lot. Then come false eyelashes, eyeliner, lipstick. Finally, it’s wig time – and today it’s Edna’s glamorous outdoor outfit, the one she dons when she finally manages to get over her height shame and quit. the House.

But even for a natural showman like Jacobson, some things are off limits, and we’re led out of the room at this point; apparently photographed while stripped so he could slip into a women’s bodysuit, which is where he draws the line. This is funny.

Edna has always been played by a man, from Divine in John Waters’ 1988 film, to Harvey Fierstein in the original 2002 Broadway production, to John Travolta in the 2007 film based on the musical based on the film. . But according to Matt Lenz, who was associate director of that first Broadway show and is in Australia to helm this revival, which opens on the 20th anniversary of its New York debut, it’s not really a drag role.

“I think it’s an acting role. It just happens to be played by a man,” he says. “Over the years we’ve thought, ‘Well, why not just pick a wife?’ But the John Waters aspect of it, this slightly distorted perception of the world, would somehow be lost.

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