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!
Wednesday 20th – Saturday 23rd October, Wolverhampton Grand.
Click here for ticket information