Hairspray the Musical at the New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham Review


HairsprayMayflowerHairspray the Musical
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

14 December 2015 to 2 January 2016

Reviewed by Katy Nettleton

Hairspray is back, with a brand new production of the smash hit musical comedy.

It’s Baltimore, 1962 where Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV. Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality, bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way!

Starring Tony Maudsley (ITV1’s Benidorm) as Edna Turnblad, Claire Sweeney (Educating Rita, Chicago) as Velma Von Tussle, Peter Duncan (BBC1 Tumble) as Wilbur Turnblad and Brenda Edwards (Chicago, We Will Rock You, X Factor) as Motormouth Maybelle. Freya Sutton will reprise the role of Tracy Turnblad alongside Jon Tsouras as Corny Collins, Dex Leeas Seaweed, Ashley Gilmour as Link Larkin and Layton Williams (Bad Education, Billy Elliot) as Duane.

Don’t miss this all-star cast in an irresistible feel-good show that will have you smiling for days – let your hair down and book now!

In two words… BOOK NOW!

This really is a show not to be missed… at the start I was a little unsure on the production as it was discussing segregation based on colour (which obviously was an issue in the 1960s) but as someone who works within Equalities and discrimination it felt “wrong” to laugh and sing along to a subject which means so much to so many people but as the show went on my feet were tapping, my heart was racing and I couldn’t wait to hear what songs were going to be sung next…

The way in which the music and singing was part of the “acting”, and staging changes was seamless and the energy of the cast could be felt in the audience. This in essence, was a show about breaking down segregation whether it being due to colour or by being behind bars! The costumes and staging and use of the television monitors around the stage made you feel (at times) that you were behind the camera watching the dance competitions happen.

The first half was about “setting the scene”, and for me could be maybe shorter however once the final song of the half was performed I could easily see how it built to the launch of Motormouth Maybelle’s (played by Brenda Edwards) voice (AMAZING). With the second act focussing on the actual breaking down of the barriers and inclusive society!

The partnership between Edna and Wilbur Turnblad was perfect. Peter Duncan’s (Wilbur) voice was not (in my opinion) up to the standards of the other singers however his acting brought their relationship alive and cemented the partnership. Tony Maudlesy (Edna Turnblad) was highly entertaining and his (sorry her!) gravelly voice could be heard easily (without the need for a microphone!). The way in which they were “mothering” their daughter Tracey Turnblad (Freya Sutton) just brought the family to life! Tracey became this loveable character who was following her dream and did not see her size, colour or background as a barrier (to which we all should take heed from in our own lives) who was put down by her peers, but rose against it with courage, determination and passion for her art!

The whole musical was outstanding. There are a number of “well-known” voices amongst the cast… And they did not disappoint, with Claire Sweeney (Velma Von Tussle) getting the audience involved by getting “down with the audience” (which was well received) and playing the part of a Director perfectly. Her daughter Amber Von Tussle (had an amazing voice and the way in which she portrayed the spoilt child was excellent. I couldn’t finish the review without mentioning Seaweed (played by Dex Lee) who was excellent, his voice, dancing and acting were driven by a pure drive to be the part (which suited him perfectly). Also mention needs to go to the sprightly Little Inex (played by Karis Jack) whose energy could be felt – the way in which all her dance moves seemed effortless and just with eases as she bounced around looking weightless and defying gravity was inspiring!

Overall this is a lively, foot tapping, awe-inspiring play which is not to be missed. The audience all got involved (even if this was reluctantly at first) and the introduction of back flips at the end brought the show to a close. I am not going to give a list of the musical numbers as you will have to go and see the show yourself… Run and Tell That!

I would give this show 5 out of 5 and recommend it to anyone of any age! It’s a show for all. The whole show was a class act and made me wanting to go back and see it again…

Rating: 5/5 thumbs_up

Tickets cost from £17.90 to £67.40  (plus £4 transaction fee)..

Hairspray the Musical is at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until 2 January 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 871 3011.

New Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 4DS


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