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Hairspray Review at Bristol Hippodrome

Hairspray Review at Bristol Hippodrome 2016

Hairspray Review

The Bristol Hippodrome

Monday 7th – Saturday 12th March 2016

Story Synopsis

It’s Baltimore 1962, where Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton), 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. When Tracy gets chance to audition for the teen dance show she loves watching, she encounters prejudice from the producers because of her appearance. It’s looking unlikely that a curvy schoolgirl in flat daps, ankle socks and an ill-fitting tight top will ever be accepted into a world of stereotypically slim, elegant dancers, but Tracey’s happy with her unconventional look and against all the odds, she makes it through and bags local heart-throb Link Larkin to boot! Tracey soon starts to become seen as a dance star in her own right but, appalled by the racially segregated Baltimore dance scene, she risks her new-found fame to fight for equality.

Some Serious Hairspray!

There’s a lot to like about this production as it cleverly combines deadly serious issues of racial prejudice and body image challenges, within a fun lighthearted show.

Hairspray’s fictional Corny Collins TV show is based on the real mid-century Buddy Deane Show where a regular ‘Committee’ of teenagers danced to the latest rock and roll music. Unlike its national counterpart, American Bandstand, Baltimore’s Buddy Dean show featured exclusively young white dancers, apart from once a fortnight when black youngsters were given the floor. In 1963 a group of black and white teens stormed the Buddy Deane show and, as it was a live broadcast, the integrated show had to go ahead!

Many of us, myself included, aren’t old enough to remember the 1960s and as a white woman I’m unlikely to ever understand the full implications of colour prejudice. However, I can relate to the barriers Tracey faces because she doesn’t look the part at her audition. I feel saddened that even now we’re constantly faced with images of body perfection in the press, which are impossible for virtually any of us to live up to.

These days it’s still hard to fight modern-day prejudice (like ensuring an overweight teen stands a fair chance in an interview) but it helps to put into perspective how brave those 1960s teenagers must have been to make their controversial and dangerous stand against racial segregation.

Hairspray a great fun, bouncy, feel-good show which subtly offers an insight into racial injustice without detracting from an enjoyable trip to the theatre.

Hairspray & Highlights

This is a funny show. ‘I Can Hear the Bells’ has us laughing along and some of the spoken lines are absolute corkers like Link’s clumsy, politically incorrect declaration

“Tracey I’m in love with you, no matter what you weigh!”

and Tracey’s romantic dilemma

“Whatever happened to the bland spineless boy I feel in love with?”

I particularly enjoy the sequence where three daughters simultaneously rebel against their Mothers in three separate sets, positioned side by side, during ‘Mama I’m a Big Girl Now’.

But perhaps the most memorable highlight of the whole evening is Motormouth’s (Brenda Edwards) amazing rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’.   Her tremendously powerful, husky voice fills every inch of the theatre.

Hairspray Review

Age Suitability

My nine year old loves it, as does the girl sitting behind me whose appreciative yelling leaves my ears buzzing for approximately 24 hours after the show!

There’s a good story which is simple to follow. There’s plenty of action and a fair few backflips (always a winner as far as my children are concerned). It’s a teen story so there a little ‘boyfriend girlfriend’ action but nobody takes their clothes off and I don’t notice any bad language so I’m very happy for my nine year old to watch this and I think it would be suitable for my seven year old too.

The Verdict?

My parents are disappointed not to recognise much of the music as they’ve anticipated hearing familiar rock and roll tracks, but if musical originality of the only complaint we have I don’t think we can really grumble!

Hairspray is a lively, energetic, colourful show that’s great fun to watch despite, or perhaps because of, its serious message, so backcomb your hair baby, shake that aerosol and get ready for a fun night out with Hairspray!

Cast and Credits

With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Hairspray originally opened to rave reviews on Broadway in 2002 and subsequently won eight Tony Awards. The production opened in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2007 and won four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical. Proving to be an international success, Hairspray has also opened in South Africa, Japan, South Korea, China and Dubai. Following the musical’s phenomenal success on stage, a film of the musical was released in 2007 which starred John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Marsden.

Tony Maudsley (ITV1’s Benidorm) plays Edna Turnblad in HairsprayHe’s joined by TV and stage actress and presenter Claire Sweeney (Educating Rita, Guys and Dolls, Brookside) as Velma Von Tussle, Olivier Award nominated actor and much-loved Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan (BBC1 Tumble) as Wilbur Turnblad and British singer and West End performer Brenda Edwards (ChicagoWe Will Rock You, The X Factor) as Motormouth Maybelle. Freya Sutton reprises the role of Tracy Turnblad alongside established musical theatre performer Jon Tsouras (A Chorus Line) who plays the role of Corny Collins. Dee Lee (The Scottsboro Boys) plays Seaweed, Ashley Gilmour (Miss Saigon) plays Link Larkin, Lauren Stroud (Wicked) plays Amber, Monique Young (Top Hat) plays Penny, Karis Jack (Urinetown) plays Little Inez, Adam Price (Hairspray) plays Male Authority Figure, Tracey Penn (Made in Dagenham) plays Female Authority Figure and Layton Williams (Bad Education, Billy Elliot) plays Duane. 

Hairspray is produced by Mark Goucher and Laurence Myers, Tom O’Connell Productions Ltd., Just for Laughs Theatricals, Gale King Productions, Gary Brown and Curve theatre, Leicester.

Director: Paul Kerryson

Choreographer: Drew McOnie

Musical Director: Ben Atkinson

Set Designer: Paul Moore

Costume Designer: takis

Lighting Designer: Philip Gladwell

Sound Designer: Ben Harrison

Original Screenplay: John Waters

Book: Mark O’Donnell

Book: Thomas Meehan

Music / lyrics: Marc Shaiman

Lyrics: Scott Whitman



Monday 7th – Saturday 12th March

Evenings at 7.30 pm

Matinees on Wed & Sat at 2.30 pm

Tickets from £17.90

Concessions available at certain performances


Enjoyed our Hairspray review? Then why not check out other show reviews on Practically Perfect Mums?
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