Hairspray at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham Review

13-24 February 2018


Reviewed by Cate Norris

OK I have to admit I had no clue what Hairspray was about, and I am ashamed to confess I had low expectations. I mean what could an entire theatre production about a hair product really have to offer? How daft did I feel then and how I ate my words when I discovered that Hairspray is in actual fact a spectacular story, tackling some hard-hitting issues, whilst expertly maintaining a high energy and comedic tone, with more singing, dancing and 60’s fashion than you could shake a can of hairspray at!

Amidst the big hair, crazy costumes and entire palette of colour, what lies at the heart of this show is an incredible story and that’s its true strength. Tracy Turnblad (played by amazing understudy Rosie O’Hare), dreams of appearing on The Corny Collins Show so attends open auditions, despite her parents Edna (Matt Rixon) and Wilbur (Norman Pace) warning her not to go. Dragging her loyal and geeky, yet comical friend Penny (Annalise Liard-Bailey) along, Tracy is not welcomed by selfish and callous producer, Velma Von Tussle (Gina Murray) or the star of the show, her spoilt and self-obsessed daughter Amber (played fantastically by understudy Gemma Lawson) as Tracy is not the right size for TV. Before Tracy leaves she witnesses a young black girl also being turned away for being the wrong colour. It’s not all bad for Tracy as she bumps into her TV crush, the handsome Link Larkin (Edward Chitticks). It’s love at first sight, but Tracy knows he will never want her. Still, the inequality that Tracy has experienced plays on her mind, so she gets together with her friend, the gorgeous and super energetic Seaweed (Layton Williams) and his mum, singing sensation Motormouth Maybelle (Brenda Edwards) and as she learns more about the segregation of black and white people she becomes more adamant that she wants to end it.

Strengthened by a stellar score and every cast member in fine voice, not least Brenda Edwards who belted out I Know Where I’ve Been, with all the sass and determination of a lady that truly did know where she’d been. Many audience members got out of their seats following Edwards’ performance and I can only assume the rest had been fixed into theirs from the power of those lungs! Matt Rixon and Norman Pace got lots of giggles from their delightful duet You’re Timeless to Me, but my favourite performance was Rosie O’ Hare’s charming, I Can Hear the Bells. As Tracy falls for Link, and has planned their wedding within five seconds, everyone in the audience falls for Tracy and wishes she could be their BFF. She’s the sort of sweet natured girl, who stands up for what is right and has bags of likability that people can relate to.

Supported by a highly energetic cast performing pristine dance moves, they didn’t miss a beat and kept it fun and fabulous. In particular I couldn’t take my eyes off Layton Williams who was back flipping, high kicking and jump splitting all over the place. I would absolutely recommend a visit to see Hairspray, amazingly it isn’t solely about hair products, it’s fantastically feel good, vibrant and funny and has some exceptional singing and dancing to boot. But most of all, it’s for anybody who has ever felt like the underdog throughout their lives or been inspired to ignite change for the better.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £20 to £47.50 (booking fees may apply).

Hairspray is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 13-24 February 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.

Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND

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