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Quick Change Review: Hairspray (Tour)

★★★

Hairspray elevates and secures a style. In that sense, the touring UK production of the musical does everything it says on the tin.

However, this Hairspray, unfortunately, lacks a little in volume.

Adored around the world, Hairspray guarantees a fun night at the theatre. From the first “oh oh oh” signalling us waking up in 1962 Baltimore, to the r-r-r-roll call that introduces the ‘Nicest Kids In Town’ to the finale of all finales; ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’, theatre-goers rejoice in the charming story of vivacious tearaway teen, Tracy Turnblad, as she pursues her dream of dancing on TV alongside the people she loves.

Photo credit: Mark Senior


This production performs the steps in the right sequence but doesn’t quite have the final finesse.

The rhythm is slightly off. Unfortunately, character relationships are left feeling limp and their key traits are more superficial than built to be invested in. Iconic lines are delivered without a place to land as we race through from one shiny number to the next, with no time to pause and appreciate the message.

Katie Brace, however, steps into Tracy’s dancing shoes as the perfect fit. Her performance has all the energy of a young woman with passion and determination, whilst also being delightfully fun. She shines brilliantly alongside Rebecca Jayne-Davies, who is positively charming as the ever-loveable Penny Pingleton.

The duo has epic comedic timing, portraying their characters from the tops of their ‘dos to the tips of their tapping toes.


Photo credit: Mark Senior


A particular highlight is the syrupy sweet number, ‘I Can Hear The Bells’, where Tracy catapults herself into her fantasy life with her love interest, Link Larkin (Ross Clifton). Poking fun at the spontaneity of musical theatre, Penny wanders the stage attempting to pick up impromptu choreography, eyes wide with bewilderment.

Another duo that steals the show is, of course, Alex Bourne as Edna Turnblad and Norman Pace as her joke shop-owning husband, Wilbur. The two deliver ‘You’re Timeless To Me’ with the gusto and giggles expected.

Brenda Edwards’ portrayal of Motormouth Maybelle was a pleasure to watch. Her rendition of ‘There’s A Light’ marked a poignant and important scene as the community campaign for racial integration and make a stand against racial prejudice. It was moving and powerful, which only accentuates how much stronger this production had the potential to be if they took the time to focus more on the story at its heart.

The staging is disappointingly sparse and repetitive, lackluster to the grandeur of the soaring score and feel-good choreography. It doesn’t quite do justice to the eager and endearing cast who sometimes look too animated and over-rehearsed against the flat set.

Hairspray, as a piece of musical theatre, and as a beauty product is essential. It’s a crowd-pleaser that celebrates individuality and love, guaranteeing a good night out. This production just needs a little touch-up to reach new heights and give its cast the opportunity to rise.


Photo credit: Mark Senior


Hairspray plays at Curve to 9 Sept before continuing on tour, tickets here