With the clocks going back at the weekend and the long winter nights beginning to draw in the national tour of Hairspray couldn’t have arrived at a better time in Manchester. Bringing colour and fun in bucket loads from a highly talented cast.
This show hits every mark perfectly. From the opening number ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ it is clear that you are in for a show full of energy and passion as we are taken on Tracy Turnblad’s journey fighting for equality picking up local heartthrob Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour) along the way.
Playing her hometown and her second stint in the lead role Freya Sutton as Tracy has developed into the confident young lady her character demands. An assured performance in every way is appreciated by the very loud capacity audience on opening night.
Tracy’s parents, mismatched couple Edna (Tony Maudsley) and Wilbur (Peter Duncan) provide some hilarious moments which is topped by a moving yet light-hearted love song ‘Without Love’ toward the end of the show. This was one of a number of superbly cast pairings featured in this production.
Tracy’s best friend Penny (Monique Young) is one of the surprises of the show as she battles to escape from her racist and religiously-devout mother turning from nerdy kid to sexy teen after meeting local black lad Seaweed (Dex Lee).
Claire Sweeney as Velma Von Tussle shines as the producer of The Corny Collins (Jon Tsouras) Show attempting to manipulate the result of Miss Teenage Hairspray competition in favour of her spoilt daughter Amber played by Lauren Stroud.
The show is stolen by Motormouth Maybelle played by the force of nature that is Brenda Edwards. Not seen on stage until near the end of the first act she blew the roof off the Palace Theatre with ‘Big, Bold and Beautiful’ to close the half and then mesmerised the audience with the slower yet equally powerful ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ in the second half which brought some of the audience to their feet as the auditorium erupted into cheers and applause usually only heard at a pop concert. Simply stunning!
The show closes with the crowd favourite and extremely wordy ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ which receives a number of encores.
An on-stage band of 8 led by Ben Atkinson sits high above the simple yet effective set from Paul Moore which was flooded by an unbelievable festival of colour thanks to the lighting design of Philip Gladwell.
Hairspray is one of the best feel good musicals of recent times with an infectious score and should only be missed if you have a very very good excuse. Playing until Saturday (31st) before continuing on its tour of the UK, go on treat yourself, you won’t regret it!
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 26th October 2015