Writer: Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Director: Paul Kerryson
Choreographer: Drew McOnie
Music/ Lyrics: Marc Shaiman
Reviewer: Scarlet Wildhorn
Since its release in 2003, Hairspray the Musical has toured extensively, both in the UK and in the US. Set in 1962’s Baltimore, racial segregation is rife, but Tracy Turnblad can’t understand why integration is so detested. It’s the sixties after all, and a cultural revolution was happening. Racing home each night after school to watch The Corny Collins Show with her best friend Penny, Tracy finally lands herself a spot as one of the dancers. She uses her new-found fame as one of ‘the nicest kids in town’, as well as help from a few friends, to do something about it. She can’t change the world, but she can change this one television show, which is a pretty good place to start.
The stage set is minimal, with much of the room given over to dance space. During filming of The Corny Collins Show itself (based on Baltimore’s own, real-life dance show, The Buddy Deane Show), the band are situated to the rear of the stage, helping to create a feeling of actually being seated in the studio audience. And it’s always nice to actually see the band. Projection screens add an extra dimension to the production, and do well to stage certain scenes, including the detention room to the streets of Baltimore.
As you might expect, this is a show jam-packed with dancing, which is almost continuous throughout. The full impact is reliant on the skills and energy of the ensemble, which, needless to say, is infectious.
It is exciting to see so many new faces in this production. Rebecca Mendoza makes her professional debut as Tracey Turnblad, and what a debut. Loveable, excitable and incredibly funny, the casting is spot on. Also making her debut, is Annalise Liard-Bailey as Tracy’s best friend, Penny Pingleton. The role of Seaweed is in good hands. As a former Billy (from Billy Elliott), Layton Williams is bold and has a definite charisma with boundless energy, not to mention killer dance moves and silky smooth vocals.
There is a fantastic double act when it comes to Tracy’s loving parents. Matt Rixon (Edna Turnblad) and Norman Pace (Wilbur Turnblad) are quite the comedy duo, with a wonderful dynamic. They bounce off each other with incredible ease, and their performance of You’re Timeless to Me, in Act II is showstopping, literally. But they are also both strong characters in their own right; a mother who is afraid her daughter will endure the same humiliation she did, and a father who believes in his family above all else, going to extraordinary lengths to ensure their happiness and freedom.
The narrative and Mark Shaiman’s lyrics blend seamlessly between teenage affairs of the heart and the deeper racial tensions and overt segregation of the time. Hairspray is the musical with big hair, big voices and big heart. It’s colourful, bright and daring, but sadly feels all to relevant today, despite being set more than 50 years ago. There is no doubt that this is a feel-good musical, and will leave you groovin’ to a brand new sound.
Runs until: 10th March 2018 | Image: Contributed