Review: KSU Students’ Fest wows the crowds for another year

Nothing really does beat the KSU Students’ Fest in the scholastic calendar, does it? This year was no different, with a cast and crew of over 300 students wowing sell-out crowds over the course of last weekend with this year’s edition, called Oh My Hairspray!. And, as the dust now settles, we can now look back at what a show it was…

Powered by a stellar script and brought to life by a fantastic cast, an impressive array of musical numbers with the dances to match them, a full wardrobe of visually stunning costumes, and an elaborate and detailed set to boot, Oh My Hairspray! surely ranks all the way up there with the very best Students’ Fest efforts.

Ruth Grima’s rendition of the lead role in Tracy was near flawless, with beautiful vocals and all the dance moves to match; while Raquel Hannah Theuma played the overly-religious but readily-rebellious Penny to a tee.

Luke Vassallo playing Edna – Tracy’s stay-at-home mother and the production’s dame – can only be described as show-stopping and he oozed chemistry with Shaun Rizzo’s Wilbur, while Matthew Cassar also deserves special mention for his hilarious rendition of Seaweed.

The production wasn’t short of strong female characters either – with Michela Agius and Ilaria Formosa both giving an added oomph to the show through their charisma and sheer vocal strength in playing the Ira Losco inspired Velma and Elizabetta respectively.

Like many productions of the past, the band and their execution of the musical choice was integral – and it’s fair to say that at no point was a song improperly placed or, quite frankly, simply an extra. Each musical number – from the beautifully emotional ‘Shallow’, to the utterly hilarious adaptation of George Ezra’s ‘Shotgun’, all the way to the piano intervention playing the sound of a popular Instagram filter – had its place and were played to perfection.

The costumes and the set meanwhile also complemented the performance. Velma’s seventh wonder-esque costume along with Seaweed’s Honda are particular highlights of this year’s array of colourful costumes and detailed props.

What is most of note however for me is the script and the choice of production. The original Hairspray was set in 1962 America amidst a backdrop of division and racial segregation, and tracks Tracy as she seeks to unite the two sides of the divide and bring about integration.

For Students Fest, the script was expertly turned into one relevant to Maltese society, taking into account our own ever-present (and, arguably, somewhat worsening) divisions. Be it in our geographical divides (we see the “north” and the “south” sides play out), linguistic divides (we see Maltese speakers not being allowed to use the language on television), and political divides, the production exposes some of the realities of Malta’s society.

The script itself was not totally perfect – some references to things such as mobile phones, Facebook, Instagram followers and such were a bit head-scratching given that the time period for the production was specified to be 1962 – however it did perfectly expose these divisions and, in making us laugh about them, expose how artificial they really are.

In a time when Maltese society is seemingly filled with people getting more and more at each other’s throats, be it due to politics or anything else, the production served as a good reminder that, fundamentally, we are all one and the same and that no division of any sort should be getting between us.

The nicest kids in town may have made everyone laugh, but if they’ve made everyone be at least a little bit nicer to each other and hence heal even a little bit of society’s divisions, then that is the most important thing of all.

Albert Galea

Co-Founder of The Yuppie back in 2017 and a History graduate.

Albert Galea

Co-Founder of The Yuppie back in 2017 and a History graduate.