You can't stop the beat

~ Playbill - 30/10/2007 ~

The London production of Hairspray officially opens at the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre Oct. 30. Previews of the Tony-winning Broadway musical began Oct. 11.

The production stars West End regular Michael Ball ( Phantom and Les Miz ) in the cross-dressing role of housewife Edna Turnblad. British comedy actor and director Mel Smith makes his musical debut as husband Wilbur.

Ball and Smith are joined by newcomer Leanne Jones (in the role of Tracy Turnblad); Tracie Bennett (as Velma Von Tussle); Ben James-Ellis (as Link); Natalie Best (Inez); Dermot Canavan (Male Authority Figure); Elinor Collett (Penny Pingleton); Johnnie Fiori (as Motormouth Maybelle); Adrian Hansel (Seaweed); Paul Manuel (Corny Collins); Wendy Somerville (Female Authority Figure); and Rachel Wooding (Amber Von Tussle).

The cast also features Gavin Alex, Fem Belling, Philip Catchpole, Lewis Davies, Helen Dixon, Emma Dodd, Tim Frater, Kate Gillespie, Ewan Gillies, Nicky Griffiths, Jenii Hicks, Holly James, Sandra Marvin, Terel Nugent, Michael Peters, Adam Price, Charlotte Riby, Dominic Shaw, Neil Toon, Michael Vinsen, Zara Warren and Jacqui Zvimba.

As with the Broadway production, the Marc Shaiman (music and lyrics) and Scott Wittman (lyrics) musical — which received a total of eight 2003 Tonys including Best Musical — is directed by Jack O'Brien with choreography by Jerry Mitchell.

Mark O'Donnell's book is set in sixties Baltimore and is based on John Waters' 1988 movie of the same name. The story follows the fortunes of "pleasantly plump" Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad, who yearns to perform in the Corny Collins Dance Show.

Transformed overnight from outsider to teen celebrity, Tracy's next mission is to vanquish the program's reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin and integrate a television show.

In the remake of the film, John Travolta plays Edna Turnblad, the cross-dressing role which Ball takes on in the London stage version and which bagged Harvey Fierstein a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway production.

The Broadway hit premiered at New York's Neil Simon Theatre in 2002, where it continues to run.

Hairspray is produced in London by Stage Entertainment with Margo Lion, The Baruch/Viertel/Routh /Frankel Group, New Line Cinema in association with others from the Broadway producing team.

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