Book: Thomas Meehan
Music and Lyrics: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Director: Paul Kerryson
Reviewer: Natasha Hegarty
Hairsprayhas amassed eight Tony Awards, four Olivier Awards, two films and has won the hearts of musical fans worldwide.
Set in Baltimore in 1962, the show follows Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton), a teenager who longs to dance on The Corny Collins TV Show. When she finally makes it, she finds herself an enemy in the show’s producer, Velma von Tussle (Claire Sweeney). She wants Tracy off the show due to her plus-sized figure and her pro-integration views. She befriends a black classmate Seaweed (Dex Lee), his friends and family who dance on the show’s monthly ‘Negro Day’ to make a stand against the racism and prejudice they all face at the television station.
Paul Kerryson’s production boasts a very talented cast who work tirelessly from beginning to end in an energetic show which doesn’t stop for one breath.
Freya Sutton has and incredible voice and is very funny as the leading lady. Her scenes with the show’s teen heartthrob Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour) do get the most laughs. Despite the rather outdated relationship, the characters havethe audience roots for the couple from the beginning.I Can Hear the Bellsis one of the funniest songs in the show and it’s a testament to Sutton on how she manages to keep a straight face while singing it.
Tony Maudsley makes a delightful Edna Turnblad. His comic timing is excellent and the audience love him. Though a drag rôle, there is nothing Pantomime about his performance. He has great chemistry with Peter Duncan as Tracy’s father, Wilbur, and their duetYou’re Timeless to Meis a particular highlight of the show. Although very funny, the song has a subtle sweetness to it, which gives the performance a touch of realism.
The vocal performances throughout the rest of the main company were fantastic, particularly Monique Young as Penny Pingleton, Dex Lee as Seaweed and Jon Tsouras as Corny Collins, the dance show’s suave host.
Though Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle gets the warmest reaction of the night. Her sensational rendition ofI Know Where I’ve Beenimmediately has the audience on its feet – where they pretty much stay until the end. This is a testament to Marc Shaiman’s fabulous music – catchy and easy to move to and so wonderfully ‘60s.
A honorable mention goes to the spectacular dance ensemble. Drew McOnie’s choreography is inventive and has the audience applauding at their rather impressive flexibility and sheer never-ending amounts of energy.
There were a couple of technical issues, such as the curtain coming up too early at the beginning – but this doesn’t take anything away from the performance. Also, there is the occasional dropped accent and the lack of subtlety in the script results in some overacting here and there, butHairsprayis all about the music.
The showstopperYou Can Stop the Beathas everyone dancing and singing along and it feels like a big party. Hairspray is a show with a big heart and is a lot of fun while still punching out a very important message. Tracy stands up for what she thinks is right and never apologises for who she is or how she looks, which will always resonate.
The standing ovation isn’t a surprise and is well deserved.
Runs until3 October and then touring |Image: Ellie Kurtz