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Hairspray - Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Louise Winter on 5th Apr 2016 | View all blogs by Louise Winter


Reviewed by Louise Winter 4th April 2016

What an absolute BELTER of a show!

How I have managed to not see either of the films or any of the London or touring theatre productions of this show is astounding especially after the evening I have just spent in Milton Keynes Theatre! The original film with Divine and Rikki Lake came out in 1988. The musical opened on Broadway in 2002, winning eight Tony awards. The London musical opened in 2007 picking up four Olivier awards and the film remake with John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer in 2007 was a box office hit. It’s been around for ages! My niece (my occasional reviewing partner) has seen the 2007 film and saw it on stage during its last run through Milton Keynes. She enjoyed it so much that she opted to come to this offering too. So, here we were, me with a rough idea of the story and vaguely familiar with one of the songs, my niece knowing the story well and songs almost off by heart. We were like the aficionado and the newbie but after an exhilarating couple of hours we are both confirmed fans of this warm and witty show. What an utter treat! 

Hairspray Lisa Kurttz

image Ellie Kurttz

Set in early 60’s Baltimore, Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on the Corny Collins Show, the teen dance show of the time. Although not fitting the image of the show or conforming to society’s image of young women Tracy is reassuringly resilient in the face of the vile behaviour of the spoilt prom-queen-type Amber Von Tussle (Lauren Stroud) and her equally unpleasant mother Velma (Claire Sweeney) who directs the show and engages in a fair amount of nepotism. Sweeney is hilarious, particularly in the final scenes. 

This outstanding musical is packed with fabulously strong numbers – not a duff one among the twenty crammed into the show. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman clearly deserve their multitude of awards for the music and lyrics. Stellar turns from every committed, talented and believable performer of this exceptional cast, plus a six- piece band of superb quality, led by Liam Dunache, and we have an absolute crowd pleaser. Paul Kerryson has combined a team who gel brilliantly on stage and who were at the top of their game last night. I can’t recall the last time the whole audience was on their feet applauding and shouting with such enthusiasm at the curtain call.  

Tracy, played in such a lovable and warm way by the truly delightful Freya Sutton, is undeterred in her dreams for herself and for her friends. Her statuesque matriachal mother (played with great humour and style by the 6'4'' tall Matt Rixon) and diminutive kooky father (Peter Duncan) portray a loving and tolerant family who have overcome obstacles and maintain a positive attitude to themselves and to others. Rixon and Duncan have great stage chemistry and the fun they are having is infectious.

Every single member of the cast puts their all into it; standouts are the leads and the immensely powerful Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle. Her moving rendition of 'Come So Far (Got So Far to Go)' filled the auditorium and had us looking at each other with complete astonishment. She really is something else. Seaweed, played by Dex Lee is funny and sexy and his dancing/acrobatics are breathtaking. Ashley Gilmour as Link Larkin, the love interest for both Amber and Tracy, is just right. High energy and sharp choreography  by Drew Mconie, Simple, effective sets and fabulous costumes and make make for a riot of movement and colour on stage.

Hairspray Ellie Kurttz

image Ellie Kurttz

Though a high-energy musical and a pastiche of the times there are pertinent messages for today wrapped up in this all singing, all dancing bundle: racial integration, tolerance towards others, removing prejudice, body image issues for young women. Ok, so it's all over-simplified but it's not schmalzty, insulting or disingenuous; it's pitched very well.

An extremely energetic and entertaining show and a must see!

Hairspray is at MK theatre until Sat 09 Apr and then continues on tour.

0844 871 7652 or visit (bkg fee applies)












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