The Brightest Musical In Town: Hairspray Is Back With A Bang!

Big, bold, bright and beautiful and that could just be describing the leading lady Tracey Turnblad, Hairspray arrived in suitably glittering style at the Wolverhampton Grand last night, with the nicest kids in town once again proving that this is the feelgood musical to beat all others. The musical, which mixes the fun and frolics of the Corny Collins show, with the dark undercurrents of racial inequality in 1960s Baltimore, was the tonic that we all need in these increasingly dark times. As the final song exclaims, you really can’t stop the beat. Last night, Wolverhampton couldn’t stop the beat!

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 Katie Brace 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 when she is not there.  Her partner in crime is the hilarious Rebecca Jayne-Davies as Penny Pingleton, all sweetness and dipsy one liners.

Teen Dream support is also offered by Akeem Ellis-Hyman and Ross Clifton as Seaweed and Link, both showing great singing talent and skilled dance moves. Charlotte St Croix is a polished and charismatic performer as Little Inez, scene stealing throughout the show, whilst Richard Meek as Corny Collins delivers his one line retorts in style. another stand out in a cast at the top of its game. The support cast is rounded out with Jessica Croll as  Amber Von Tussle, great in the ‘Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now’ number.

As Edna and Wilbur, Alex Bourne and Norman Pace are wonderful, their sense of comedic timing only matched by the warmth and charm of their performances. Ad libbing their way through the always so lovely and funny ‘you’re timeless to me’ bought the house down. Rebecca Thornhill 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

Wednesday 20th – Saturday 23rd October, Wolverhampton Grand.

Click here for ticket information

 

It’s Astounding: The Rocky Horror Show is a naughty delight

The ultimate in cult musicals returned to The Alex, Birmingham last night, bringing its unique brand of wicked naughtiness. Richard O’ Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is a musical like no other, with an audience who heckle virtually every word, jump to its feet midway through to do ‘The Timewarp’ all the time enjoying every single mucky minute. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s a shock to the system, one that leaves you laughing out loud and gasping with shock. In short, It’s a hoot!

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Based on those late night double features that played at cinema’s during the 1950s, The Rocky Horror Show is a pastiche on B Movies of the Science Fiction and horror variety. Squeaky Clean, All American couple Brad and Janet break down in the middle of nowhere on their way home from a wedding. They walk to the nearest property, which just happens to be a rather sinister castle housed by a strange motley crew that includes Riff-Raff, a butler/manservant, Magenta and Columbia. They just want to use the telephone, but when the head of the house, the tale, suspender and stocking clad Frank-N-Furter, makes an appearance, they are destined to be taken on a journey of sexual decadence from which they will never recover.

Strictly Winner Ore Oduba and Haley Flaherty play Brad and Janet beautifully, almost as if they have  emerged direct from the 1950s, all apple pie and ‘hi honey I’m home’. Flaherty is a brilliant American sweetheart, she is just perfectly cast for the wide eyed, innocent Janet who quickly becomes corrupted by Frank, whilst Oduba is a perfect, straight laced, straight faced Brad, losing his morals along with his trousers.

Stephen Webb, who I admired so much in Jersey Boys,  is a stunning Frank-N-Furter, totally vamping it up as the sweet transvestite from Transexual Transylvania. When he is on the stage your eyes are on him, his lithe movement and knowing vocals and side eyes are mesmerising. Webb is ably supported by Suzie McAdam as the slinky Magenta, permanently in a state of sexual tension, Lauren Ingram as Columbia, a pocket rocket with an incredible high octane vocal performance, and the brilliant Kristian Lavercombe who returns as Riff Raff, leading the cast in the superb classic, ‘The Timewarp’.

The Timewarp is a definite highlight, with the audience jumping to its feet, but there are plenty of other scenes to enjoy. The scenes of Brad and Janet in bed with Frank-N-Furter are super funny and rude and caused much hilarity amongst the audience. The unveiling of Rocky (Ben Westhead – another great performance, and certainly a scene stealer in leopard print pants) and then another,  eye-catching, scene stealing turn from Joe Allen as Eddie, threaten to set the stage alight with sheer exhilaration. And the audience itself become another star of the show, as they constantly join in, heckle and finish the sentences of the narrator, the brilliant Philip Franks, who is well up to the ad-libbing challenge and keeps it topical with asides about the fuel crisis, and Boris and Carrie (or Miss Piggy, as he refers to her as.)

Brash, vulgar and naughty, all in the worst possible taste and all the better for it, The Rocky Horror Show is something you should add to the bucket list and see at least once in your life!

The Rocky Horror Show

Tuesday 28 September – Saturday 2 October

Tickets from £13 (transaction fees apply)

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-rocky-horror-show/the-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/

Enjoying A Day At The Races

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It is nice every once in a while to treat yourself, without the little ones, and spend some quality time with your friends.  So how about a day at the races?  This is the one time you can have the whole day to yourself, getting fully dressed up and sipping champagne, whilst soaking in the atmosphere and having a little flutter. Or how about having a family day out at the races?  These days the races are perfect entertainment for the whole family, and there are still plenty of meetings left in 2021. If you are interested in why you might enjoy a day at the races, then step this way.

Enjoying a Flutter

Horse racing is one of those sports that combine the excitement of the event, the frill of dressing up, and the chance of winning some money. Horse race betting doesn’t have to mean high stakes, or even be based on some superior knowledge, it can just be fun. If you want to take it seriously, you can study the form of the runners, and their last few performances before placing a bet, either online, or on the day. You may be acting on a tip from a friend or from the Racing Post, who use expert analysis to predict possible winners. You may just be like me, and choose a horse based on the name you like most (I’ve had a few Grand National winners from doing just this.)

Things to look out for when placing your bet are aspects like if the horse has had any previous wins, the horse’s age and weight, it’s top speed ratings, and its latest betting odds.  Handy tips to picking your horse are found easily on various websites, and information is also available at the racecourse itself.

If you are tempted to have a flutter, you just need to set your budget and boundaries, and it will make your day all the more interesting and exciting, and you could end up taking home a few extra pounds.

Upcoming Events

Of course, the biggest racing events of the year like the Grand National, Royal Ascot and The Derby have all taken place this year, but most courses still have regular meetings in 2021. Next week (30th September) sees the Great Autumn Meeting taking place at Warwick Racecourse, whilst if you want to plan a little further ahead, Uttoxeter Racecourse has a jump racing afternoon on Friday 29th October, which, if you want to take the family, is actually during half term.

If you enjoy your racing under floodlights, Kempton Park has an evening of floodlight racing next month, whilst there are also meets at Newmarket, Haydock Park and Epsom Downs, all before the end of September.

Ladies day

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Fashion at the races is all important.  You want to create that right look but need some inspiration.  Dress codes at race tracks usually advise that you dress as you would if you were going to a wedding.  You can get ideas on the formal dress you are looking for, to express your desired look.  Many ladies enjoy wearing hats, which range from the simple design to the flamboyant, which you can pick up at local department stores, or have specially made by a milliner.  Shoes come in a range of shapes and colours, and can be easily found online to compliment your outfit.  Handbags and the right jewellery are the accessories which can finish off your race outfit perfectly.

A family day

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Family days at the races include extra activities to keep your cherubs entertained throughout the day, from an appearance of their favourite children’s characters, bouncy castles, to interactive racing zones.  Whether you live close to a racecourse or are travelling, racecourse websites advise you as where to drive in and park onsite, or local bus and rail information, with many places offering shuttle buses taking you directly to the course, from the nearest stations and town centres.

If you are travelling you also might consider making a night of it, and staying in local accommodation.  Whatever your requirements you might want to splash out on a lavish hotel, to an affordable boutique bed and breakfast, or stay in local flats and rooms.  However you wish to spend it, a day out at the races is a way of having fun with your friends or entertaining your family.