Hairspray - Southampton - Mayflower Theatre

~ The Public reviews - 14/05/2010 ~

The phenomenon that is Hairspray has hit the Mayflower and already the three week run is very close to a sell out.

Based on the 1988 John Waters film, this musical version then took Broadway by storm in 2002 netting 8 Tony Awards It then became the longest running musical at the West End's Shaftsbury Theatre opening in 2007, and scooping 4 Olivier's, including Best New Musical. In the same year a film version of the musical was made featuring John Travolta and Nikki Blonsky.

So does this initial UK tour do justice to such a fantastic pedigree? The answer is unquestionably yes and the audience's standing ovation at the final curtain more than confirmed this.

The show is all about prejudice in 1962 Baltimore especially highlighting that against skin colour and skin size. Our two hefty heroines right the wrongs, prove they are more than worthy citizens and do it in a joyful, hilarious, foot tapping manner.

Michael Ball reprises the role of Edna Turnblad, having originated it in the West End, and again shows he is still Britain's leading musical actor (or should that now be actress). He is still vocally supreme but it is his comic sense and delivery that really blows the crowd away. ‘Husband' Wilbur played by Les Dennis compliments Ball as well as any of his West End ‘other halves'. Their rendition of ‘Timeless to Me' had the crowd in stitches, with all the planned corpsing working a treat, just as it does every night.

Leanne Jones won a Best Actress Olivier when she opened in London as Tracy Turnblad and Laurie Scarth, now playing the role, was always likely to be up against it when compared. But she is stunning in the part, vocally very strong, if perhaps a little more ‘raspy' than Jones, but boy does she make the role believable. She dances with style, she acts with class and you can 100% understand that despite size even the class hunk would fall in love.

The set is a cut down version of the original but works very well, even if slightly cumbersome in early on off movement, but all in all David Rockwell has downsized but not downgraded. The 60s costumes of William Ivey Long appear almost unchanged from London, still perfectly catching the period and Ball now has an even more eye catching outfit at the finale.

Male authority figure, Carl Robinson, and his female counterpart, Yvonne O'Grady, play many roles and get many laughs out of each and every one of them whilst Tracey's dopey friend Penny Pingleton sees Emma Dukes also at the top of her game comedy wise.

Liam Doyle as Link Larkin, the one the girls all swoon over, never quite generates the passion the role requires and his initial love interest, Amber Von Tussle (Clare Halse), is far too high pitched and over the top ‘blonde' which results in many of her comic lines being lost due to a real lack of clarity in her ramblings.

Evil TV show producer Velma Von Tussle sees a fine villainous performance from Gillian Kirkpatrick, perhaps even topping her magnificent showing in Billy Elliot. Danny Bayne, winner of ITV's Grease is the Word is not the strongest vocally as TV host Corny Collins, that title unquestionably goes to Sandra Marvin who, as DJ Motormouth Mabelle, nearly brings the house down with her ‘gospel-esc' version of ‘I know Where I've Been'.

The three Dynamites (Abiona Omonua, Natalie Kelly and Shakira Akabusi) are somewhat underused but always the vocal centre of attention when on stage. There is also a strong performance from Seliza Sebastian as Inez, another lovable ‘wannabe' TV star held back by the colour of her skin.

Choreographer Jerry Mitchell has come up with a number of top quality routines and all are performed with a real preciseness by a very talented class with the end song ‘You Can't Stop the Beat' being the pick of a very fine set. Wayne Robinson (Seaweed) is one of the star ‘movers' throughout.

Les Miserable's apart, you will not see a better touring musical all year, but you will have to move fast if you want to see it in Southampton. The words ‘sell out' and ‘Hairspray' fit together perfectly.


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