Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Sarah Crown
Theatre Correspondent
11:00 PM 13th September 2021

A Cut Above The Rest - Hairspray

What a fabulous, feel-good show!

I can’t imagine a show more fitting, post pandemic, to welcome audiences back to any theatre because this musical has everything and more besides.

It’s vivacious, colourful, energetic and does what successful musical hit shows must always do: send you home humming a tune you just can’t get out of your head, in this case ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’.

Set in 1962 Baltimore, our loveable plump heroine Tracy Turnblad, played by Katie Brace, has big ambitions (with even bigger hair!) and is desperate to succeed and to dance her way onto national television via The Corny Collins weekly show.

As is usually the way with these things, it is almost inevitable that she will not only become Miss Teenage Hairspray of 1962 but will also eventually get her man, Link - ably played by Ross Clifton - after he parts company with glamorous blonde girlfriend Amber.

The kindness, tolerance and strong moral compass of the Turnblad family - Edna (Alex Bourne) a larger than life character and her diminutive husband, Wilbur (Norman Pace /Paul Hutton, Alhambra) shine through - contrasts sharply with the racial unrest of the time, a topic still relevant today with the recent activities of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As Motormouth Maybelle (Brenda Edwards / Bernadette Bangura, Alhambra) says ‘You can’t get lazy when things get crazy’, action is needed! Tracy becomes a champion of the black underclass, her courage knows no bounds as she along with others, is arrested and thrown in jail.

The show is overflowing with talent – from the main characters to the smaller roles. Richard Meek (Liam Dean, Alhambra) as Corny Collins was as smooth as a used car salesman wearing his twinkly jackets, whilst Seaweed (Akeem Ellis-Hyman) and Penny Pingleton (Rebecca Jayne-Davies / Zoe Heighton, Alhambra) were perfectly matched as the 'mixed race' couple.

Rebecca Thornhill who took the part of the villain, Velma Von Tussle, was excellent, haughty and prejudiced to the end as was her daughter Amber played by Jessica Croll, both characters being the polar opposites of the Turnblad family. Others are too numerous to mention individually but all were excellent in the parts they played.

Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s clever score and witty lyrics ensure that the show captures the audience from the word go and several of the musical numbers received thunderous applause, Edna and Wilbur’s rendition of ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ including their ad-libbing almost brought the house down.

The dance routines are both energetic and effective utilizing inventive choreography and special effects (pyrotechnics and haze) to good effect. The only slight negative was that the diction in parts was indistinct.

Hairspray is a wonderful family show full of fun. It has colourful costumes, fabulous sets, creative choreography and above all catchy and memorable tunes, all of which you can enjoy simply for what they are, or, you can still enjoy all of that whilst recognising that the show has a much deeper and serious meaning, urging everyone to be kinder to our fellow human beings, whatever their colour, size, shape or beliefs.

Alhambra, Bradford
Until Saturday 18th September

Original Tour Review
Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield