~ The Londonist - 05/11/2007 ~

Finding a musical to truly like can be difficult these days. Musicals can be a bit pointless and ridiculous (hello We Will Rock You !) and often most fun if you're a) drunk or b) intending to get drunk afterwards and thus not paying attention. However, we have finally come across not one but two musicals, currently playing in London, which are certainly worth our time.

First up: Hairspray , the musical based on the 1988 film by John Waters, featuring Divine and Ricki Lake. (The 2007 film, starring John Travolta, is based on the musical, of course, and not the 1988 film.) Hairspray does not need much introduction, suffice to say that it concerns itself with segregation and intolerance, but does so with charm and energy (not to mention a high level of campness) which means that it never becomes heavy-handed. Like all Waters' heroines, main character Tracy Turnblad is the plump outsider in an otherwise size zero-obsessed world, but we see that beauty is on the inside and most definitely in the eye of the beholder. Newcomer Leanne Jones is pitch-perfect as Tracy, infusing the role with a naive raunchiness and a sweet charm that makes us root for her to become Miss Teenage Hairspray and get her man. The whole cast is brilliant, the weakest link perhaps being Mel Smith, although he does have a rather undemanding role and he does make the most of a scene in which he courts his Ball and chain.

Oh yes, the Ball. Michael Ball dons the rather large brassiere of Edna Turnblad and he is magnificent. He grabs Edna Turnblad by the...throat and embraces her size, frocks and make-up, and most importantly, looks as if he is having a... oh, you know. The prices are their usual West End steep selves, but for once it might be worth it. Go see this musical – it's big, it's noisy, it's fun and it ain't over until the fat lady sings – or, in this case, stops singing.

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