HAIRSPRAY: Mark O’Donnell / Thomas Meehan / Marc Shaiman / Scott Wittman
Touring (Birmingham Hippodrome till 6.11.10)
Runs: 2h 35m, one interval
Reviewed: Birmingham Hippodrome, 26.10.10, Alexander Ray
It doesn’t get much better than this.
First of all, this is a stunning production; it’s beautifully produced, stylishly executed and performed with vigour, charm and huge, huge commitment. A good start. But HAIRSPRAY is more.
It’s music is unremittingly optimistic, the energetic 60s beat is totally engaging and the show never, for a second, lets the pace drop. Beehives and other hairdos abound with clothes to catch the eye too. Yet thrust into this camp celebration of the period are two deeply serious themes – society’s attitudes to race and fat (anyone remember the ‘Fat is a feminist issue’ tag?)
You might think that the serious message would get lost in all the jollity but nothing could be further from the truth; as you cheer and applaud the performances, so you are cheering and applauding the integration policies encouraged by the chubby heroine Tracy Turnblad in her quest to be champion dancer. It’s a heady effect.
Leading the troupe of young people is the charming and lively timebomb, Laurie Scarth – her personality fills the theatre. The script retains much of the sharpness of its origins – and much of this is delivered by Scarth with deep-throated relish: ‘You have acne of the soul’ is but one example. Her sidekick, Amber is painted in broad comic brushstrokes by Clare Halse – a lovable creation.
This is a strong company of singers and dancers and the show’s success belongs to them all.
At the more matured end of the company are two terrific performances form Les Dennis and Brian Conley as Mr and Mrs Turnblad, Tracy’s parents, respectively. These are old-school comedy performers and neither miss a comic beat. Their two-hander, front-cloth scene is a lovely comedy highspot and enjoyed by young and old in equal measures.
Tickets are at a premium, so book early is my advice!
Edna Turnblad: Brian Conley
Walter Turnblad: Les Dennis
Tracy Turnblad: Laurie Scarth
Link Larkin: Liam Doyle
Velma Von Tussle: gillian Kirkpatrick
Seaweed: Wayne Robinson
Corny Collins: Danny Bayne
Penny Pingleton Emma Dukes
Amber Von Tussle: Clare Halse
Motormouth Maybelle: Sandra Marvin
Femal Authority Figure: Yvonne O’Grady
Inez: Seliza Sebastian
Male Authority Figure: Carl Sanderson
Pearl (Dynamite): Shakira Akabusi
Fender: Kane Andrews
Sketch: Richard Dale
IQ Harry Franis
Gilbert: Darron Difty
Cindy (Dynamite): Natalie Kelly
Lorraine: Gemma Knight-Jones
Tammy: Mia Lincoln
Shelly: Emily Luke-Taylor
Peaches (Dynamite): Abiona Omonua
Thad: Yohemy Prosper
Brad: Charles Ruhrmund
Brenda: Lauren Stroud
Lou0Ann: Helen Ternent
Swings: Nyroy Dixon, Debbie Jenkins, Jennifer Saayeng, Laura Throgood, Matt Thorpe
Dance Captain: Debbi Jenkins
Assistant Dance Captain: Spin
Walking Cover Edna: Mark Hilton
Walking Cover Tracy: Dina Tree
Directed by: Jack O’Brien
Choreography by: Jerry Mitchell
Set Design by: David Rockwell
Costumes Designed by: William Ivey Long
Lighting Designed by: Kenneth Posner
Sound Designed by: Steve C Kennedy
Casting by: David Grindrod Associates
Wigs and Hair designed by: Paul Huntley
Music Supervisor: Nicholas KSkilbeck
Arrangements by: Marc Shaimen
Musical Director: Mark Crossland
Resident Director: Mark Hilton
Company Manager: Eamonn Byren