MusicalReviewSouth West

Hairspray – New Theatre, Cardiff

Book: Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music: Marc Shaiman
Lyrics: Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Director: Paul Kerryson
Musical Director: Ben Atkinson
Reviewer:Bethany Steer


Set in Baltimore, USA in 1962, Hairspray is a musical full of bounce, boogie and big, big hair.

A chubby teenage girl with an eye watering crush on local TV superstar, Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour), Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton) can only dream of featuring on the hottest TV show in Baltimore, The Corny Collins Show.

And, when one of the teen stars is forced to take a ‘nine month break’ after ‘too much fun and freewheeling’, she gets her chance and auditions in front of a panel who are dripping with preconceptions and unwilling to look her way.

With the help of her friends – including several from the ‘black’ side of the neighbourhood, such as detention buddy Seaweed (Dex Lee), Tracy turns TV stardom into a bid to overturn racial segregation, protesting for black and white students and people to mix freely and ‘all dance together’.

The star-studded cast give a fantastic performance with every dance move, song and well-versed exchange delivered with punch and exuberance.

They are exceptionally professional – not faltering through a 15 minute halt due to technical problems in the performance – and pushing through so slickly that you would almost think it was planned.

Vocally, larger than life Motormouth Mabelle (Brenda Edwards) name completely steals the show, as her rich voice effortlessly both purrs and booms its way through some of the show’s biggest numbers.

Some members of the cast – such as Sutton, Lee, Matt Rixon (Tracy’s mum Edna) and Peter Duncan (as dad Wilber) – shine so brightly in their performances that others dim a little in comparison; Claire Sweeney’s portrayal of Velma von Tussle, for example, is a little disappointing, more screech than sass with an accent that slips on occasion.

On the whole, however, the performance is lively and loud, and the creative team, too, have excelled with in terms of the musical direction, the slick staging and the fabulous, sparkling costumes.

The finale is brilliant, and the encore has the audience on their feet, clapping, singing and dancing along.

A great night out for all the family – just be prepared to have Good Morning Baltimore stuck in your head for hours.

Runs until 26 March 2016 then tour continues | Image:Rachel Ferriman

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