Hairspray is a fun loving show that’s sure to get you singing along and dancing in your seats. At first glance, it’s a sweet as pie musical as a young Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on the teen favourite TV dance programme, The Corny Collins Show. However, the plot focuses on larger themes as Tracy meets a new group of friends in detention, and sets her sights on making the show racially integrated. Hairspray is that perfect mix of lighthearted toe-tapping entertainment mixed with a gripping and diverse plot with substance.
Hairspray is based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name, with a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Scott Whittman and Marc Shaiman. Set in 1962 Baltimore, Tracy struggles to fit in with the American ideal of beauty, when she auditions to show off her dance moves for The Corny Collins Show, she is teased and bullied by rival Amber von Tussle. However they have more in common than they think as they team up with Tracy’s best friend Penny, who all challenge their mothers individually as they sing my favourite song in the show “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now”. The show features a variety of music styles, from Motown, rhythm and blues, and 50s doo-wop. There’s of course a typical love story as Tracy fawns over heartthrob Link Larkin, but she never loses sight of what matters to her.
The first act sets up a lot of the plot, and can feel slow at times. Newcomer Rebecca Mendoza takes a little while to warm up as Tracy but is a breath of fresh air once she’s got it. Her mother, Edna, is played by Matt Rixon who is charming yet occasionally comes across as a pantomime dame. Teamed with Norman Pace as husband Wilbur, however, and the pair are hysterical, constantly ad libbing and making the audience cry with laughter. Brenda Edwards stands out as Motormouth Maybelle, and she easily gets the loudest applause for “I Know Where I’ve Been” which is a spine-tingling moment. Layton Williams as the sprightly Seaweed is dazzling as he moves across the stage, love interest Penny is played by Annalise Liard-Bailey who is thoroughly cute and loveable.
With well-known catchy tunes including “Good Morning Baltimore”, “Welcome to the 60s”, and “You Can’t Stop the Beat”, Hairspray is delightfully energetic. There’s a plot to sink your teeth into and plenty of fun to be had by all. Catch it at the Marlowe Theatre until 12th May 2018 and then follow the UK Tour.