Book: Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music: Marc Shaiman
Lyrics: Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Director: Paul Kerryson
Good Morning Sheffield! The Lyceum Theatre is back open and what a better feel-good show to open with than Hairspray. With a brilliant score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and a funny script that is full of heart from Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, this is the show needed after the year and a half we’ve all just been through.
Hairspray tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a larger-than-life girl who dreams of appearing on hit TV show, ‘The Corny Collins Show’. She becomes friends with Seaweed and his family and joins the effort to integrate television so everyone can dance together, regardless of race. Add to this a healthy dollop of romance and Tracy’s somewhat eccentric family it makes a joyous musical with some incredibly important messages.
Katie Brace leads the cast as Tracy – her voice is sensational and her performance is great fun. At times, she can be slightly over-the-top, making the character slightly unbelievable but there are moments of real heart in there. Her rendition of Good Morning Baltimore Reprise is particularly moving. Alex Bourne and Norman Pace were a fantastic duo as Edna and Wilbur, Tracy’s parents. They made You’re Timeless To Me, a song that can sometimes drag a little, thoroughly entertaining. It was tender, yet there were plenty laughs too.
Rebecca Thornhill plays Velma von Tussle, the villain of the piece. Her voice is powerful and her stage presence is spot on. She makes a wonderful pairing with Jessica Croll as Amber, her daughter. Croll also gets plenty moments to show off her excellent vocals. Richard Meek has a great charisma as Corny Collins, whilst Ross Clifton portrays Link Larkin’s journey in the show brilliantly. Akeem Ellis-Hyman’s Seaweed is likeable and he hit the high notes effortlessly. He has excellent chemistry with Rebecca Jayne-Davies who plays Penny Pingleton. She gives a standout performance, with some excellent vocal moments and a very real interpretation of the character, never becoming a caricature as sometimes the character can.
Brenda Edwards is the absolute highlight of the show. She returns to the role of Motormouth Maybelle for the third time and her performance is outstanding. Her rendition of I Know Where I’ve Been is particularly moving and feels particularly poignant after events that have been witnessed in the last year.
Despite having many outstanding performances, this production of Hairspray lacks in the production values department. Takis’ set and costume design is rather lacking and the production does seem to have been reduced over the years it has been touring. The production relies very heavily on quite a wobbly projection screen, which at times can be distracting. The design means there is limited playing space for much of the production and the stage can look cramped at times. However, Drew McOnie’s choreography really shines throughout the show. He makes the most of every dance moment he can find and the choreography really does increase the energy of the show, where it’s otherwise lacking in terms of spectacle.
This production of Hairspray is great fun and is well worth paying a visit to. You leave with a smile on your face which is exactly what we all need after the pandemic and everything else that has happened over the 18 months. Be sure to catch this excellent cast on tour – just don’t go expecting the West End production.
Runs until 21st August 2021, before touring the UK until 2nd April 2022