Don't miss Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre!

~ by Joanne Mace - May 2008~

GIVEN that the bright lights of the West End are a mere 50 minute train ride away from Basingstoke, it would be a waste of some wonderful nights out not to take advantage of the theatrical productions on offer there.

And it would be a total travesty to miss out on this fantastic, fantastic, fantastic (as John Barrowman would say) show, which will eradicate your woes and send you home totally invigorated, so infected will you have been by its colour and charm.

It's almost the same story as the recent excellent movie treatment, the updating of John Waters' cult cinematic classic. Young Baltimore resident Tracy Turnblad (Leanne Jones) secures a prime slot on the Corny Collins Show despite her being pleasantly plump and unlike the other twiglet-type dancers. Supported by her best friend Penny (Elinor Collett), she becomes a local celebrity, much to the delight of her proud parents Edna and Wilbur (Michael Ball and Ian Talbot).

All those of you who remember Mr Ball's beginning his acting career on the stage of our very own Haymarket Theatre, back in the 1980s, will be delighted by his performance as Tracy's mum here. He's a stalwart of many a musical - including Aspects of Love, which made his name -, but it's this role which won him an Olivier award as best actor earlier this year. He's clearly having the time of his life, appearing in ever more extravagant dresses and outfits.

The rest of the cast are equally excellent. Newcomer Leanne, who was plucked from obscurity for the lead, is sublimely good, boasting a beautiful voice, and with a very cute chemistry with her audience which has been undiluted since she began playing Tracy.

Any Dream Will Do? fans will also be thrilled by former Joseph contender Ben James-Ellis, who plays Link Larkin. Elvis-esque and dreamy, he has the ladies swooning in their seats, along with Adrian Hansel's sexy Seaweed. Tracie Bennett, as baddie Velma Von Tussle, and long-limbed lovely Collett are equally worthy of a mention too, getting deserved laughs with their out-there characterisations.

This is a bright, loud and unashamedly fun show with wonderful songs too. Perfect for any occasion you can think of - or just to celebrate nothing at all!

*Performances at the Shaftesbury Theatre run from Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, with Thursday and Saturday matinees at 3pm.

Tickets, priced from £20, are available from the theatre box office on 0207 379 5399 or by visiting

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