Hairspray at the Bristol Hippodrome Review

5-10 March 2018


Reviewed by Katy Hart

Hairspray, the smash hit American Musical comedy, is currently on tour and this week it is in Bristol at the Hippodrome theatre. This award-winning musical is based on the book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan and features smash hit musical numbers by Marc Shaiman.

It is set in the 1960s in racially segregated Baltimore. Plus sized teenager, Tracy Turnblad (played by Rebecca Mendoza) has a dream, she loves dancing and wants nothing more than to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a local teenage TV dance show. Tracy and her best friend, Penny (played by Annalise Liard-Bailey) rush home from school each week to catch the TV show and watch teenage heartthrob, Link Larkin (Edward Chitticks). Auditions for a much-coveted place in the show are held and Tracy auditions despite her mother’s reservations that she will be ridiculed because of her weight. Against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show and becomes an overnight celebrity and she uses this as a platform to fight for the rights of her black friends who are only allowed to dance on The Corny Collins TV show one day a month on Negro Day. Along the way Tracy wins the heart of her heartthrob Link Larkin.

It is not difficult to see why Hairspray has collected an array of awards. It is so energetic and uplifting, featuring the most wonderful 1960’s dance style music and downtown rhythm and blues. The musical tackles difficult subjects such as racism and bullying and shows what a difference one person can make. I loved the way the live band are centre stage and visible in The Corny Collins Show. The music is totally captivating and to have the musicians on stage really adds to the performance.

It is difficult to single out individual cast members for their performance as without exception they were all incredible. However, Motormouth Maybelle (Brenda Edwards, former X Factor contestant), the strong, sassy host of Negro Day, totally captivated the theatre with her performance of ‘Big, Blonde and Beautiful’ – her vocals were mesmerising. Not many people get standing ovations mid-way through a musical but Brenda was totally deserving of hers.

My favourite moment was the rendition of ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ with Edna and Wilbur. The rapport between these two performers was hilarious – absolutely brilliant. I also loved when Tracy bumped into Link at the auditions and the dream sequence that followed with ‘I Can Hear The Bells’.

The energy, passion and confident dance moves throughout leave you feeling uplifted and feeling good – especially the final song ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’. The audience were on their feet dancing and singing for the finale, my only disappointment was that it wasn’t longer.

As always, we found the theatre staff friendly and welcoming. We arrived early and enjoyed a pre-show drink in the Piano Bar, and we had excellent seats with a fantastic view of the stage.

We absolutely loved it.

Rating: 5/5

Age guidance: Ages 7+. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes with an interval.

Tickets cost from £17.50 to £66 (plus £4 transaction fee).

Hairspray is at the Bristol Hippodrome from 5-10 March 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.

Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012

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