Wolverhampton couldn’t stop the beat last night as the Hairspray UK tour entered the city for one week only. Bursting with bright, bouncy and colourful numbers it’s a musical with real heart and a strong message of equality.
Telling the story of a young girl who just wants to dance on television, Tracy Turnblad dreams of being on The Corny Collins Show but when she turns up to audition, she is told she doesn’t quite fit the look of the show. Tracy is a big girl with a big heart bursting with passion to both pursue her dream and fight against institutional racism. Set in the city of Baltimore during the 1960s, the segregation between black and white people was a major issue and this is tackled in the production as Tracy fights for black and white kids to be able to dance together.
Rosie O’Hare stepped in as Tracy Turnblad last night and gave a splendid performance as the feisty young lady with her stellar vocals and expressive character. Alongside her best friend Penny, played by Annalise Liard-Bailey who is effortlessly funny in the role. With a strict mother that will just about let her out the house, her shy awkwardness is portrayed superbly and Liard-Bailey’s comedy timing is exemplary. Layton Williams is slick and sharp as Penny’s love interest Seaweed. Williams’ fiery movement and high-energy never falters as he gives a first-rate performance.
Stealing the show with her killer vocals is Brenda Edwards as the sassy powerhouse Motormouth Maybelle. Edwards’ stage presence is undeniably commanding and her iconic number I Know Where I’ve Been is a real showstopper.
Taking on the enemy and producer of the Corny Collins show Velma Von Tussle performed by Gina Murrey whose blunt and narcissistic approach alongside her daughter Amber (Aimee Moore) is excellently funny. As Amber competes with Tracy to impress the suave, handsome star of the Corny Collins show Link Larkin (Edward Chitticks), her desperation is marvellously performed. What really captures the hearts of the audience is Tracy’s fighting spirit and beautiful relationship with her mother Edna (Matt Rixon) and their tender scenes together are beautiful moments in the show.
Having toured for years, Hairspray is certainly a favourite across the country for its toe-tapping numbers and lovable characters but Drew McOnie’s choreography has given the production a new lease of life. The flawless cast is a breath of fresh air and their chemistry is utterly heartwarming. Performing as if it’s the opening night of the tour, the cast gives it their all and I applaud them for their tremendous spirit.
The hair is high but the energy is even higher in this fabulously fresh production of Hairspray.
On at the Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday 3rd of March, tickets and information can be found online.