Variety - 02/11/2007 ~
Perhaps out celebrating her newest casting, Dench was spotted grinning heartily at the opening night of "Hairspray." Small wonder. Jack O'Brien's precision-engineered production has survived its transatlantic journey remarkably intact.
On the downside, Mel Smith mugs his way through the role of Tracy's father. Unlike the touchingly straight-faced Dick Latessa on Broadway, Smith is at irritating pains to point out to auds the oddness of dancing with a man. Ben James-Ellis is a rather anodyne Link Larkin. But all the other leads fire up the stage with real zest.
In her West End debut, Leanne Jones is a spunky, immensely appealing Tracy, but the most pleasant surprise is Michael Ball's Edna. Getting into a dress has clearly released Ball -- his usual over-bright stage persona has vanished. Ironically for someone in heels, padding and wigs, he now looks more relaxed and happy onstage than ever before. The actor -- and audiences -- are clearly having a ball.
With unanimous raves from local critics, this show might be a rare case of a hit Broadway musical repeating its success in London.