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Hairspray @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 7th Nov 2017 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

Hairspray tickets

Based on the 1988 John Waters film Hairspray, this American musical was written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman who co-wrote the lyrics with Scott Wittman. In 2003 it won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, out of 13 nominations and ran for 2,642 performances closing on 4th January 2009. The London production was nominated for a record-setting eleven Laurence Olivier Awards and won four, including Best New Musical.

It’s Baltimore in 1962 and Tracy Turnblad, the big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance programme. Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality, whilst trying to win the heart of local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way!

Sadly the themes of bullying and racial segregation are still as relevant today as in the early 60s when the show is set.  The 2007 film starring Nikki Blonsky as Tracy and featuring John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer, became a cult and has ensured the continued success of the stage musical.

Personally, I can’t say that I enjoyed the film, but I was interested to see how it translated onto the stage.  There were some brilliant dance routines, lots of energy, gorgeous costumes and some powerful singing....but something just wasn’t there for me.  As my actress friend said ‘I just don’t care about anyone and the script seems quite thin.’ OK that doesn’t  stop any of the fans enjoying the show and there are some really great performances.  Whenever Gina Murray was on stage, playing unscrupulous TV producer Velma Von Tussle, the show lifted to a higher level. Gina really knows how to work the audience and her belting voice was sublime.

Another powerful performance came from Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle and boy how appropriate is that name...what a tremendous voice she has and again she’s someone who knows how to command the stage.

Some lovely comedy moments were provided by Norman Pace as Wilbur Turnblad and Matt Rixon as his wife Edna Turnblad.  They certainly made ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ their own and eked out every bit of comedy.

Layton Williams as Seaweed acrobatics and dancing were mesmerising.

Showbusiness is a very fickle world and some people get incredibly lucky early on, whereas 95% of people work hard for years and years before getting a break.  So Rebecca Mendoza should count her blessings as she walked straight out of stage school into playing the lead.  She has an awful lot to learn as the stage swallowed her up and she doesn’t have the presence yet to carry the role.  I found the high-pitched little girl voice and nasal singing very irritating all the way through.  It’s a shame for her that she didn’t have a few years learning her craft before being thrust into the starring role, so she’s very lucky to be able to learn on the job and with such strong adult cast members around I’m sure she will!

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

6.10.17

 

@yvonnedelahaye

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