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Hairspray – Liverpool Empire

Book: Mark O’Donnell &Thomas Meehan

Music: Marc Shaiman

Lyrics: Scott Wittman &Marc Shaiman

Director: Jack O’Brien

Reviewer: Helen Patrick

[Rating:4.5]

Hairspray 2013 Uk TourBased on John Waters’ cult 80s film starring Ricky Lake and the late Divine, Hairspray is the ultimate feel good, foot tapping, cheesy grin inducing musical that will guarantee to have you on your feet dancing in the aisles by the end of the show.

Set in Baltimore during the late 1950s and early 60s, Hairspray follows the dreams of Tracy Turnblad, a larger than life teenager who dreams of nothing more than being a regular dancer on the legendary Corny Collin’s dance show on TV, but Hairspray isn’t scared of tackling some big themes, racial segregation being the biggest, with a message that rings strong throughout. Don’t be ashamed of who you are or what you want to become, that everyone is equal and should be treated the same.

Wittman &Shaiman (the same team behind the songs in TV’s Smash) have created a musical full of catchy songs and power ballads, from the opening number ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ to the show stopping ‘I Know Were I’ve Been’ beautifully delivered by Sandra Marvin as Motormouth Maybelle in a performance that gained its own standing ovation during the production, there really is something for everyone in this show.

Freya Sutton making her professional debut in the title rôle of Tracy Turnblad is a revelation, she carries the show with her larger than life personality and incredible stage presence and with powerhouse lungs to match, what really is there to dislike? Playing in front of a home crowd is always going to be special and for Marcus Collins (Seaweed) this was his night, he manages to captivate the crowd with sizzling shimmy’s and velvety vocals.

Following in the footsteps of Michael Ball, Brian Connelly and Phil Jupitus is no easy feat but TV personality Mark Benton fills the larger than life character of Edna Turnblad with aplomb, he gives the character a much needed roundness and believability and plays the laughs with excellent comic timing. Strong support is also given from Lucy Benjamin and Gemma Sutton as mother and daughter team Velma and Amber Von Tussle while Lauren Hood manages to steal most scenes she delivers with a fantastic portrayal of Penny Pingleton.

The ensemble are drilled to musical and chorographical excellence and deliver performances that would make even the fittest of performers sweat just by watching them. Jack O’Brien’s direction combined with Jerry Mitchell’s fun choreography means Hairspray never lacks pace or precision, if one was to pick fault with the production it would be that some of the rôles are played a little over the top, whichoccasionallyjars against the rest of the production.

However little niggles aside, Hairspray once again proves that the regions can have the best on their doorsteps and you don’t have to pay in excess of £100 a ticket to have a sensational night out at the theatre.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

Runs until Sat 27th April

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The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.