Tackling the role of Edna

SHELLEY GRECO
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2014
Edna

BEFORE AND AFTER: This will be the first time Russell Dixon has played a female character.

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If you spot Russell Dixon wearing a fat suit, make-up and heels, there is no need to ask why. He's simply getting into character.

The West Harbour man plays Edna Turnblad in the latest stage version of Hairspray.

This is the first time Dixon has played a female character for an entire role although he admits he is no stranger to make-up.

"I have played the role of Frank N Furter in Rocky Horror, I was dressed as a transvestite," he says.

"This will be funny."

Hairspray was originally released in the late 1980s, with drag-queen Divine taking the role of Edna and Rikki Lake as her daughter, Tracy.

A remake was produced in 2007, this time with John Travolta taking the role of Edna.

It's set in the 1960s, and teenager Tracy Turnblad is desperate to dance on the popular Corny Collins Show.

Almost overnight, she is transformed from social outcast to sudden star, but she must use her newfound power to defeat the reigning Amber Von Tussle, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin and integrate a TV network - all without denting her hairdo.

Dixon, a corporate trainer and consultant by day, returned to New Zealand in December after living in the UK for eight years. He was asked by Hairspray's director to read for the role of Edna, who has always been played by a male actor.

"I thought that sounds like a challenge," he says.

"Anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone is an option you have to take.

"I wear a fat suit and high heels which makes for an exciting and challenging part of the character development process."

Dixon has deliberately avoided watching the original film so that he can create his own version of the character, rather than imitating previous actors.

"I don't want to copy. I will watch it in time but I need to get through my own discovery of the character first."

During his time in the UK, Dixon was also a standby performer for singer Robbie Williams in the television movie, Gangsta Granny.

Hairspray is on from August 16 to September 6 at SkyCity Theatre, Level 3, 72 Victoria St West.

See iticket.co.nz for tickets and more information.

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