Frothy and Fabulous – Hairspray arrives in Birmingham

Big, bold, bright and beautiful and that could just be describing the leading lady Tracey Turnblad, Hairspray arrived in suitably glittering style at the Birmingham Hippodrome last night. The musical, which mixes the fun and frolics of the Corny Collins show, with the dark undercurrents of racial inequality in 1960s Baltimore, received a standing ovation from an ecstatic audience who had been thoroughly entertained. As the final song exclaims, you really can’t stop the beat. Last night, Birmingham couldn’t stop the beat!

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Tracey Turnblad is a big girl growing up in 1960s Baltimore, but that doesn’t stop her being confident, cool and full of ambitions. She wants to be the newest dancer on the Corny Collins show and wants to win the man of her dreams, teen hunk Link Larkin. Whilst spending time in detention (again) she forms a friendship with black teenager Seaweed and his friends, a group she had seen on the Corny Collins show during ‘Negro Day’. They teach her their style of dancing (the Peyton Place) and she soon catches the eye of both Corny Collins and her beloved Link, but buoyed by her loving and supportive parents Edna and Wilbur, and Seaweed’s mother, Motormouth Maybelle, her dreams start to shift to something more serious and important, racial integration on the Corny Collins show. It is a serious message of ugly times, hidden in the froth and fun of the brightest musical around.

The whole ensemble cast is faultless, there is not a wrong move, with exceptional singing and dancing, comedic episodes and moments of real pathos. But there are still standouts even within the perfection. The brilliant Rebecca Mendoza, in her stage debut,  was born to play Tracey, she is a ball of energy and enthusiasm who literally lights up the stage – you are always waiting for her to return to the stage when she is not there.  Her partner in crime is the hilarious Annalise Liard-Bailey as Penny Pingleton, all sweetness and dipsy one liners.  Teen Dream support is also offered by Layton Williams and Edward Chitticks as Seaweed and Link, both showing great singing talent and skilled dance moves. Layton Williams in particular, is a polished and charismatic performer, another stand out in a cast at the top of its game.

As Edna and Wilbur, Matt Rixon and Norman Pace are wonderful, their sense of comedic timing only matched by the warmth and charm of their performances. Gina Murray hams up a storm as the manipulative Velma Von Tussle, having great fun in her villainous role, while Brenda Edwards (Motormouth Maybelle) manages to just about bring the house down with her emotional, passionate performance of ‘I know where I’ve been’. All in all, the perfect cast performing the perfect feel good musical.

With costumes to die for, infectious, retro sounding songs that you feel like you’ve heard before, and a live band on stage providing the icing on the cake, Hairspray is a fabulous treat you should definitely indulge in this Autumn.As those dark nights draw in, Hairspray brings a riot of sparkle and colour. Go see!

Hairspray

 

Tuesday 10th – Saturday 14th October, Birmingham Hippodrome.

Click here for ticket information

 

You Can’t Stop the Beat – Hairspray is launched in Birmingham

Tuesday saw the launch event for the brightest, bubbliest, biggest musical around, as the cast of Hairspray arrived at Birmingham’s New Alex Theatre. The show will be this year’s big Christmas musical at the Alex, following on from Jersey Boys and Ghost in 2014 and 13 respectively. I was very lucky to be invited to the launch, where the All star cast performed a series of key songs from the musical, and also hosted a Q&A session with the audience.

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Hairspray is the story of Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teenager who becomes a dance sensation in early 1960s Baltimore. She finds love with the teen idol Link, but also gets involved in the burgeoning civil rights movement through the black friends who teach her how to dance. Although the musical is frothy and funny, it has some poignant moments and has a real message about civil liberties and racism that still reasonate in the 21st.

Some of the cast of Hairspray

Some of the cast of Hairspray

A very special makeshift stage was assembled on the real stage for a group of journalists and bloggers, friends of the theatre and musical professionals as Tony Maudsley (so funny in Benidorm) as Edna Turnblad, Peter Duncan as Wilbur and Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle took to the stage to perform. Also on stage was the lovely Freya Sutton who is reprising her role as Tracy Turnblad. Stage and television star Claire Sweeney, who is playing the frankly horrible Velma Von Tussle in the show, presented the afternoon’s entertainment, and looked frankly amazing in a beautiful black dress and glittering Louboutins.

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We were treated to 3 songs from the cast. Starting with ‘Without Love’, then followed by ‘You’re timeless to me’ performed with wit and charm by Edna and Wilbur. The Q&A session was followed by the moving, spine tingling ‘I know where I’ve been’, performed by Brenda Edwards with such verve and passion you just know this will raise the roof come showtime.

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The Q&A session was fun, with cast members revealing their favourite songs, offering advice to youngsters aiming to get on the stage and with Tony Maudsley talking about (and revealing) his spanx, and his issues with high heels. There was also praise for the make-up and wig departments – who it was revealed work almost like a conveyor belt on performance nights, and Claire Sweeney talked about how she juggled motherhood of a one year old boy, with performing on stage every night.

After the show I was lucky enough to chat to Tracy Turnblad aka Freya Sutton, who was looking forward to being in Birmingham at Christmas, and was also impressed with the changes to the city since her last visit.

With Freya in the newly launched Piano Bar at the New Alex Theatre

With Freya in the newly launched Piano Bar at the New Alex Theatre

Hairspray is a must see this Christmas. Add it to your diary now and check out the ticket information below.

PERFORMANCE DETAILS

Hairspray The Musical
at the New Alexandra Theatre
from Mon 14 Dec 2015 to Sat 2 Jan 2016

Box Office: 0844 871 3011*
Groups: 0844 871 3031
Online: www.atgtickets.com/birmingham*

*Booking fees apply