Everyone let their hair down and had a ball

~ Natalie Hale, Bristol Evening Post - 13/04/11 ~

Hairspray: Bristol Hippodrome

THE much-anticipated, smash hit musical Hairspray finally blasted into Bristol last night – the final venue on its nationwide tour.

And this fabulous, vibrant show was certainly worth the wait.

The excitement in the auditorium on opening night was palpable, and from the moment the lights went up on a gutsy rendition of Good Morning Baltimore , until the curtain came down on the high-octane finale, the audience had a ball.

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This is the musical version of John Waters' cult 1988 film starring Ricki Lake. Set in 1962 America , the show tackles black segregation and an obsession with weight and beauty; however it does this with a wicked sense of humour, spectacular music and buckets of razzmatazz.

Chubby teenager Tracy Turnblad wants to achieve her ambition to sing and dance on the Corny Collins TV show, despite the fact that she's carrying a few extra pounds.

Her bubbly personality, enthusiasm and talent win her place on the show, but in her quest to use her fame to fight segregation, she ends up in prison.

That's not her only worry –can Tracy get her Mom, Edna, out of the apartment, beat evil Amber to be crowned Miss Hairspray, integrate Corny's show for good AND win the heart of local heartthrob Link Larkin?

Throughout the Hairspray tour, the role of Edna Turnblad has been split between Michael Ball , who originated the role in the London production, comedian Brian Conley and actor Michael Starke . For Bristol audiences, it's Ball that's back in the frock, and it's plain to see why he won an Olivier Award for his efforts.

Dolled up in blonde wig, stilettos, and a range of fabulous dresses covering (false!) 54EEE bosoms, Ball is convincing as the larger than life heroine.

In fact, he's been rather too convincing for some; a number of Ball fans complained after failing to spot their hero in the West End production!

Ball clearly embraces the part, and his skill and comedic ability make Edna a huge hit with the audience.

Monkees star Micky Dolenz plays Edna's husband, the loveable, ever so slightly crazy joke shop owner Wilbur Turnblad, to great effect, and the duet between Ball and Dolenz is a real showstopper.

Laurie Scarth makes an engaging Tracy, while Liam Doyle's Link Larkin oozes charm. Special mention should also go to Emma Dukes as Tracy's nerdy pal Penny and Wayne Robinson as Seaweed .

But the real star of the show is the music, played by an impressive live orchestra and accompanied by the terrific voices of the highly skilled ensemble.

A great blend of bubblegum showstoppers and toe-tapping R&B music – as the cast sing in the rousing finale, You Can't Stop The Beat .


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