Review by Carla Speight
Hairspray is the tale of Tracy Turnblad, a girl growing up in 1960’s Baltimore; whose effervescence sparks a revolution. She pushes for racial integration on the whiter-than-white Corny Collins Show assisted by a group of talented black backing dancers. Tracy’s message of love and acceptance doesn’t just inspire political change, it inspires her agoraphobic mother Edna, and sheltered best friend Penny, to go out and live live too.
This comedic musical, is a lighthearted look back on how the 1960’s was the era for change in America. Set to the catchiest of tunes, including rhythm and blues, Hairspray is packed with 60’s glitz and American humour.
The whole cast is extremely talented. Rebecca Mendoza owns the lead role of Tracy Turnblad and makes it her own. She took this role and was endearing and hilarious in her approach. Her chemistry with the cast and her timing is consistently on point throughout the show. She is utterly convincing from the start as the optimistic ‘little big girl’; who refuses to let thing like her size or her friends colour stop them dancing on her favourite TV show, The Corny Colins Show.
The role of Seaweed, Tracy’s talented friend, is played by the show stopping Layton Williams. He was a stand out performer throughout each appearance on stage. Layton is most commonly known for his TV role as Steven in Bad Education, however he has a wealth of history in musical theatre. He’s appeared in several hit shows such as Billy Elliot (the musical), Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man and more recently in Rent. With a career such as his it is no surprise that he was a stand out performer in the show. His vocals were as impressive as his acrobatic stunts and spectacular dancing.
Matt Rixton, who plays Tracy’s mum Edna and Graham MacDuff, who plays her Dad Wilbur, were both excellent in their roles. There was a little improvising with the script at times. Their little extras catching each off guard, made their solo song ‘You’re Timeless to Me” even more hilarious than originally scripted. Both barely containing their composure, were forgiven by the audience as the jokes were relevant to the script and very funny.
Brenda Edwards also had a couple of show stopping moments. First during her performance of the song ‘Big, Blonde and Beautiful”, she revealed the range in her voice, and simply hinted at it’s power. But her powerful voice was released in it’s full and beautiful capacity, during the song “I know where I’ve been”. Her performance was spine tingling, attention commanding and emotionally provocative. Whether the core of this song resonates with you due to personal experience or not, it gets you in the gut and pulls on your heart. Her delivery was empowering.
For those of you that are new the show, the simplicity of the set means it is not always clear where you are. For example, Wilbur (Tracy’s dad) runs a joke shop, but the details to this are quite limited and could easily be confused for a random hardware type shop. But despite the lack of features in the show from start to finish the audience are hooked by the catchy tunes and empowering storyline performed by a super talented cast.
Hairspray live is at the Manchester Opera House until 7th April 2018, and is touring all over the UK. This show is not one to miss, for more information and to find out where to buy tickets go to their website www.hairsprayuktour.com