MusicalReviewSouth West

Hairspray – Hippodrome, Bristol

Book: Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music: Marc Shaiman
Lyrics: Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Director: Paul Kerryson
Reviewer: Laura Hasketh

Big songs, a big heart and even bigger hair, Hairspray is  the ultimate feelgood feast full of charm, energy and vibrant colour. Better than the movie, Paul Kerryson’s production refuses to shy away from the race troubles of the 60s and by staging this important theme in an entertaining and gutsy manner, the message is all the more powerful.

It’s Baltimore 1962 – only seven years since Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat – and the larger than life Tracey Turnblad (Freya Sutton) sets out to follow her dream and dance with The Nicest Kids in Town on the Corny Collins Show. She soon discovers this is not her only dream and is determined for everyone to dance together on the show, regardless of their size, appearance and ethnicity.

The chemistry and enthusiasm among the talented cast are intoxicating; loveable and charming, Sutton bounds around the stage capturing the very essence of the determined and spirited schoolgirl. She is supported by an electrifying ensemble as they belt out toe-tapping tunes such as You Can’t Stop The Beat and Good Morning, Baltimore matched by the polished choreography.

Claire Sweeney is deliciously nasty as the close-minded – and former Miss Baltimore Crab – Velma Von Tussle, and Brenda Edwards is phenomenal as the soulful Motormouth Maybelle. Edwards’ raw performance of I Know Where I’ve Been is a true goosebump moment.

Tony Maudsley and Peter Duncan make for the perfect duo as Tracey’s dysfunctional parents and their rendition of You’re Timeless To Me is a surprising showstopper. Maudsley plays the plus-sized drag straight and, in doing so, makes his naughty one-liners and innuendos all the funnier. Monique Young should also be applauded as Tracey’s awkward best friend and her transformation in the final number is jaw-dropping.

Paul Moore’s redesigned and functional set is a throwback to the 60s and is an explosion of bubblegum colour and neon lights. The presence of the marvellous orchestra on stage instead of in the pit offers the chance to watch the talented musicians perform knockout number after knockout number.

The musical romp continues to have an impressive ‘hold’ on audiences and promises an uplifting and infectiously fun night out.

Runs until 12 March 2016 then touring  | Image: Ellie Kurtz

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