Big, bold and beautiful, HAIRSPRAY is a fun, lively and light-hearted musical that is sure to put a smile on your face
It’s not often that the atmosphere in the auditorium is electric before a show but it soon becomes apparent why HAIRSPRAY is such a crowd-pleaser. Since its star-studded Hollywood film revival in 2007, HAIRSPRAY has grown to become a firm favourite with musical theatre fans, with a new smash hit production currently on tour in the UK cementing its place in our hearts.
Set in Baltimore in 1962, HAIRPSRAY tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, who is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV. When Tracy’s audition makes her a local star, she uses her new-found fame to fight for equality, bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way.
From the opening number GOOD MORNING BALTIMORE to the sparkling finale YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT, every inch of this touring production of HAIRSPRAY is big, bold and beautiful. Drew McOnie’s 60 style choreography ensures the energy is kept high while Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s toe-tappingly good score keeps the narrative ticking along. As expected, there is also colour everywhere, from the candy coloured costumes to the characterisation of the performers.
Those who are familiar with HAIRSPRAY will know there is more to the plot than initially meets the eye. Alongside tales of teenage love and music, there are also deeper conflicts relating to racism and bigotry, yet the material never comes across as corny or preachy. Wrapped up in a bundle of great songs, it is testament to HAIRSPRAY’s enduring appeal that it handles issues of racial tensions so well that it can skillfully make its point without detracting from the entertainment.
Casting is also important with Rebecca Mendoza stealing the show as Tracy Turnblad, winning over the audience with her infectious, energetic portrayal and impressive vocals. Her chemistry with Edward Chitticks’ Link Larkin is well matched, as is her friendship with Annalise Liard-Bailey as best friend Penny.
Elsewhere, Gina Murray blends smoulder with scandal to deliver a superb performance as Velma Von Tussle while Brenda Edwards of X-FACTOR fame also stands out as Motormouth Maybelle, making the part her own and wowing the audience with her performance of I KNOW WHERE I’VE BEEN.
But it is the dynamic between Matt Rixon as Edna and Graham MacDuff as Wilbur which truly stands out. In true pantomime dame tradition, Edna is played by a male actor, with Rixon’s robust comic physicality and MacDuff’s slapstick style portrayal delivering some of the show’s best comic moments. Their duet YOU’RE TIMELESS TO ME stands out as a highlight of the show.
Of course, everything about HAIRPSRAY is bright, bold and completely over the top. Shame then that the set doesn’t match the costumes or the characters when it comes to colour and imagination, relying too much on a screen for video projection.
That said, this is a fun, lively and light-hearted production that is sure to put a smile on your face. The fast-paced finale YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT also has the audience up on their feet, singing and dancing in the aisles. What more can you ask for?
HAIRSPRAY runs at the Opera House, Manchester until 7 April 2018. Ticket prices start from £18.00
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.