Hairspray is a musical created by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan and is based on the 1988 movie. It follows the story of Tracy Turnblad, a plump schoolgirl who knows every step and every song and watches the ‘Corny Collins Show’ every day. The ‘Corny Collins Show’ is based on the real life ‘Buddy Holly Show’. Whilst being funny and entertaining, it makes a serious point about American society in the ’60s and segregation. The show is set in Baltimore and features fantastic, catchy, sing-a-long songs and energetic dance numbers.
Hairspray made its debut in Seattle, after which it opened on Broadway in 2002 for six years, closing in 2008. It was last seen in London in 2010 when it closed after two and a half years. Since then it has toured the UK twice before the current tour, and the USA once.
The show is in the middle of its third UK tour. Having seen it at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, we are eager to see it return to the West End. The current tour cast features Freya Sutton (In The Heights, Into The Woods, Wonderland) as Tracy, Tony Maudsley (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Emmerdale, Holby City) as Edna, and Clare Sweeney (Educating Rita, Chicago, Guys and Dolls) as Velma Von Tussle.
The show opens with ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ sung by Tracy and giving us insight into her character as an ambitious, enthusiastic youth with the ability but not the look. It is a very endearing part which is played perfectly by Sutton.
‘Mamma I’m A Big Girl Now’ is sung by Tracy, Amber Von Tussle (played by Lauren Stroud – Dance ‘Til Dawn, Wicked, Grease) and Penny (played by Monique Young – Evita, Dirty Dancing, Bonnie and Clyde) and signifies three girls who have grown up and are starting to become independent. Tracy wants to audition for ‘The Corny Collins Show’ and her mother doesn’t want her to. Penny watches the show with Tracy and her mother forbids her to saying kids shouldn’t be dancing to coloured music. Amber is trying to break few from her mother’s firm, controlling grip as she becomes interested in boys.
‘I Can Hear The Bells’ is first sung by Tracy who begins to experience feelings for Link Larkin (played by Ashley Gilmour – Miss Saigon, Legally Blonde). The phrase ‘I can hear the bells’ is then mentioned throughout the show at comic moments.
‘Without Love’ is sung by Link and Tracy when Link realises his own feelings for Tracy and goes to break her out of jail. It is then sung by Seaweed (played by Dex Lee – Carrie, Scottsboro Boys, In The Heights) and Penny when Seaweed rescues her from her mother who strapped her to a bed for “going to jail without permission”.
The finale of ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ is phenomenal. There is so much energy and fun in the number you can’t help but tap your feet and sing along. The number sums up the show, with Penny and Seaweed overcoming their race differences and not caring what anybody might think. Penny becomes ‘a checkerboard chick’, coming out of her shell, Tracy and Link are together despite their physique differences, and Tracy wins the Miss Teenage Hairspray.
In conclusion, it is a wonderful, fun, easy, very entertaining show which will put a smile on your face. Wonderful dancing, catchy, foot-tapping music and a happy ending.