Liz Coggins reviews this glitzy musical


Hairspray is a glitzy musical with a message tackling both racial integration and body image.

Set in Baltimore in the 60’s the story centres around Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair who sets out and follows her dream.

Along the way she becomes a celebrity on a TV programme, is crowned Miss Hairspray, wins the boy of her dreams and is successful in integrating the black community into TV dance.

Hairspray is fast joining the ranks of iconic musicals and needs to be played out in its fully glory. It just doesn’t lend itself to a pared down production, such as this one, it needs to be first class all the way and not economy.

Although it has energy and talent it’s laboured and lost by its dull set of backdrops and miniscule sliding rostra, on which the actors look very uncomfortable. And the show really doesn’t need monitors showing 60’s historical clips that distracting to the audience.

As Tracy, Freya Sutton got off to a rocky start vocally but came into her own eventually. Claire Sweeney as Velma seemed uncomfortable in the role at times whilst Tony Maudsley failed to impress as Edna Turnblad.

Hairspray’s dance chorus and supporting roles however shone impressively . The choreography is fast and furious and technically first class. The dance ensemble tackle it with gusto, discipline and high ratio energy and still manage to belt out some tricky vocal numbers.

Peter Duncan’s characterization of Wilbur is pure gold. Penny (Monique Young) and Seaweed (Dex Lee) make a convincing and amazing duo both in dance, vocals and Young, herself, has some excellent comedy timing that she brings to the role. Brenda Edwards, the powerful Motormouth Maybelle is exactly as she should be delivering dynamic vocals on tap.

The show at Bradford Alhambra runs until 14th November

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