Hairspray, Edinburgh Playhouse,

~ for The Scotsman - December /2010 ~

It's not easy holding your own against theatrical heavyweights such as Michael Ball and Micky Dolenz.

It's even harder when you happen to be the skinny white diva in a Baltimore segregation fairytale that's jammed with Sixties soul, well-built w

omen with no shortage of attitude and a black lady with lungs so powerful she could be the world's answer to renewable energy, if only her voice were harnessed.

Yet diminutive Scot Gillian Kirkpatrick rises to the challenge. Playing manipulative Velma Von Tussle, a narrow-minded television producer whose sole aim is to make the world a thin, white enclave of Val Doonican and Perry Como, Kirkpatrick relishes the vitriolic asides and dramatic flouncing that comes with her character.

Supported by an outstanding cast and slick, observant direction, Hairspray is a wry, blisteringly energetic and exuberant romp with voluptuous set pieces in all the right places.

An absorbing and disarmingly tender duet between Dolenz and Ball, Timeless To Me, runs off with the show but engaging turns by Laurie Scarth as heroine Tracy Turnblad and Emma Dukes as sidekick Penny Pingleton makes for a narrow win.

It may not be panto, but the sheer joy exuded by Hairspray makes for an enticing festive frolic.
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