REVIEW: Hairspray, New Victoria Theatre Woking (UK Tour) ✭✭✭✭✭

Hairspray UK Tour
The Cast of Hairspray. Photo: Elie Kurtz

New Victoria Theatre (UK Tour)
18 March 2016
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Good Morning Baltimore! It’s the early sixties in Baltimore and so much about America is about to change. Tracey Turnblad, a girl with a lot of heart and great big hair is set to turn everything on its head.

It’s Hairspray, the Tony and Olivier Award winning musical that set the New Victoria Theatre at Woking on fire last night, and had the audience screaming for more at the end.

Marc Shaiman (Music and Lyrics), Scott Wittman (Lyrics), and Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan (Book) took John Waters’ 1988 film and musicalised it without losing any of the magic. The show perfectly encapsulates the feel of the period and it packed full of humour. It’s a world inhabited by larger than life characters, but they are so well written that they are believable, and have been able to be embraced by audiences around the world.

This current UK tour, directed by Paul Kerryson is driven by sheer talent. Everyone on stage is on fire, seemingly having a great time, bringing this larger than life tale to the stage. It’s quite intoxicating.

Freya Sutton is a natural Tracy Turnblad. There’s an effervescent quality to her performance here. She bumps, she grinds and she grooves, she’s just irresistible. Matt Rixon plays Edna Turnblad, there’s honesty and grace in Rixon’s take on Edna. She’s a real beauty and Peter Duncan’s Wilbur Turnblad show’s his pride throughout. Getting the dynamic of this family unit just right can sometimes be tricky, but these three are just perfect. You’re Timeless To Me is just magnificent.

Hairspray Uk Tour 2016
The cast of Hairspray. Photo: Ellie Kurtz.

Jon Tsouras makes for a tremendous Corny Collins. There’s just the right balance of talent and ego in Tsouras’s compere. Brenda Edwards is a perfect Motormouth Mabelle. Her soulful rendition of I Know Where I’ve Been was packed full of meaning and irresistible.

Monique Young plays Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend. Penny is the ultimate caterpillar who becomes a butterfly and Young never takes Penny’s dorkiness too far.

Ashley Gilmour brings just the right mix of confidence, hesitancy and stereotypical jock to the part of Link. There’s great chemistry between Gilmour and Sutton and It Takes Two and Without Love are highlights as a result.

The nicest kids in town and the kids from Negro Day, moved and grooved across the stage to the energetic choreography of wunderkind choreography Drew McOnie. Embracing the feel of the period, this ensemble work incredibly hard and the energy they create could light up a small city. The never seem to stop moving!

Claire Sweeney redefines the word Diva with her take on Velma Von Tussle. Perfectly in control, her breakdown at the end of Act Two bought the house down. Just perfect! Her scenes with on-stage daughter Lauren Stroud are a delight.

Adam Price and Tracey Penn effortlessly move between characters without once appearing schitzophrenic. You name it they can play it!

Special mention must go to Layton Williams who was on as the understudy for Seaweed. Williams gave a knock out performance as the smooth force of nature that gets Tracy grooving.

It’s wonderful to see the staging for The Big Doll’s House (cut from the film), reminiscent of Women Behind Bars, it’s a highlight of this frenetic production.

Liam Dunachie’s band are brassy and give the score equal amounts of pizazz and drive that really bring out the feel of the 60’s in Shaiman’s fabulous score.

Whilst Hairspray has a serious message of integration and understanding, it’s ultimately a musical full of joy and love, and those emotions poured off the stage thanks to this extremely talented cast.

I dare anyone who sees this production not to dance their way out of the theatre.

Find out more about Hairspray On Tour.

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