Hairspray has become somewhat of a modern cult classic musical; the 21st Century version of the ever popular Grease. Unsurprisingly, the tour is pretty much a complete sell out – attracting seasoned theatre folk and theatre virgins alike to boogie on down with the ‘Nicest Kids in Town’.
Hairspray is set in 1960’s Baltimore during a time of great change; segregation was rife but the fight for racial equality was quickly gaining momentum. In this lighthearted musical, serious topics such as these are beautifully tackled. Tracy Turnblad is not only trying to fit in herself, but she joins the fight for racial equality in an effort to make every day Negro Day on her local television show. Its a story which still rings true in so many ways in todays society and comes as a harsh but light hearted reminder that we may have come so far but we’ve still got so far to go.
The show was very well done, with effective design and excellent choreography by Drew McOnie. The audience were given a true taste of the 60’s and I felt completely immersed in the story. It has all the ingredients to produce a family favourite – with a little something to keep every generation laughing and singing along.
There were a few performances which particularly stood out to me. I was really looking forward to seeing the incredible Layton Williams as Seaweed and he definitely did not disappoint. Together with Devon McKenzie, Reece Richards and Jordan Laviniere the group were a formidable foursome with the slickest dance moves around – A real treat to watch. I also thoroughly enjoyed Aimee Moore and Tracey Penn as the sinister Von Tussle duo. Tracey certainly has a powerful pair of lungs making her solo’s extremely impressive. Graham MacDuff played the part of Male Authority Figure which basically means he transforms into about 6 different male characters throughout the show and he did a spectacular job. Finally, Brenda Edwards was just fabulous as Motormouth Maybelle and her rendition of ‘I know where I’ve been’ was a thing of beauty.
Where I struggled with this particular production of the musical was with the high-pitched whiny voices given to most of the young girls. One that particularly stood out to me was Annalise Liard-Bailey’s portrayal of ditsy best friend Penny Pingleton which unfortunately was more annoying than loveable. I found the same with Tracy, played by Rebecca Mendoza although she wasn’t quite so grating. I did enjoy her overall performance and energy but it just felt a little too forced at times.
With that being said, all in all this was a really enjoyable production. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend for anyone who’s just after 2 hours of fun and I hope it would provide an excellent gateway to the wonderful world of theatre for those who’ve not yet discovered it. For those looking for something a little more groundbreaking, this one might not be for you but the entire audience was on their feet dancing to ‘You can’t stop the beat’ by the end of the show and when I looked around most people were beaming. This is a winner for fun-filled free-wheeling night out.
You can visit the Hairspray UK Tour Website for information on tour dates and tickets!
*Production Images by Hairspray UK Tour