My first experience of Hairspray was the 2007 movie starring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron and a whole host of other A* film stars. I’ve watched it a billion times since and bought the soundtrack so I can carry the rhythms with me wherever I go. I knew I had to see the stage show and having missed the first opportunity in 2013 as I was working away, I knew I had to see it when it came around this time. And it did not disappoint.
Hairspray is the pinnacle example of a good musical. It’s fun, got catchy songs, has a fantastic storyline and a chorus that gives you goosebumps- I mean the kind that weaves their way across your entire body, making your hair stand on end, lingering for ages. It’s feel good, heartwarming and full of heart and soul. And the themes explored, although historic are still prevalent today. Hairspray is based in the 60s and explores the issues of racial integration, though racism, feminism, confidence and body issues are all prejudices we’re still battling today, 50 years on. Tracy, a full-bodied high school teen, won’t let any prejudice stand in her way, and in the way of what’s right. We could all do with channelling a bit more of Tracy Turnblad.
The only negative I have to say is I found the opening sequence, ‘Good Morning Baltimore’, a little robotic, like Freya Sutton (Tracy Turnblad) was following the script too closely. Whether this was the directive or opening nerves I couldn’t tell but I would have expected to see a more bounding, excitable and a more fluid Tracey that we see beyond this one song and throughout, it was just this opening number that I didn’t feel had quite the same character. This point doesn’t diminish Freya’s obviously exceptional talent, she is an incredible singer (when it’s just her with no accompaniment in particular- WOW) and dancer, it is purely a comment on an opening number where I’d have expected more punch but felt it was a little flat. Aside this, the show really was a dream.
You can’t help but shake it, shake it, shake it, like you’re losing your mind, miming along with the ‘Nicest Kids in Town’, ‘Welcome to the 60s’ and ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’. High praise to Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle too, her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ which was just incredible, the thought of it still makes my spine tingle. And the Dynamite sisters Vanessa Fisher, Bobbie Little and Aiesha Pease had amazing vocals. But it was the final number, my ultimate favourite (You Can’t Stop the Beat), that really did it for me- I didn’t want it to end. It’s so uplifting that you’ll leave with tears in your eyes believing anything is possible.
Featured image: Ellie Kurttz