BWW Reviews: HAIRSPRAY, Curve Theatre Leicester, March 10 2014
Hairspray seems to have been doing the rounds in the UK since it closed in the West End in 2010. It is a very popular show among audiences and although the last national tour is still fresh in our mind, the Curve's artistic director Paul Kerryson has decided his venue would do a brand new production. Some may say a good idea and others bad but regardless, the Curve is notorious for its phenomenal production values so personally I am very excited about this new offering.
There is not a great deal that can be done to change the format and general shape of the production but Kerryson's show definitely has a fresh feel to it. Visually it seems a lot more muted than the original by means of design - by Paul Moore - but there was nothing monochrome about the performances. Occasionally I had to question the blatant use of stage crew during scene changes as this looked like it could have been avoided but in general, the transitions seemed very slick. Lighting designer Philip Gladwell does a fantastic job in making the fairly basic set and the lovely costumes by Siobhan Boyd look great. The use of AV was rife too which initially I was unsure about based on the pre-show videos but they aided the story well.
Under the musical direction of Ben Atkinson, the live band is set on a raised platform onstage which works well. The mix of the musicians and vocals are spot on and you could not fault the sound design by Ben Harrison.
Lee Proud's choreography is not the strongest element of the production but I applaud him for his originality. The cast are excellent in delivering the said routines and it certainly isn't easy! As the original routines are so flamboyant and memorable, Proud had a tough job and he should be commended for this.
The star of the show is Rebecca Craven as Tracey, and rightly so. A far cry from Rhiannon Salt in Waterloo Road; Craven is endearing and lives for every moment. She shows off brilliant vocals and is a nifty mover too. David Witts, or Joey Branning from Eastenders as most will know him, is the star casting but based on performance, he more than owned the role of Link Larkin and deserved to be on that stage. He's incredibly charming and has a lovely tone to his voice.
Another shining light on the Curve stage is Zizi Strallen as Penny. It gives her an opportunity to showcase her comedic skills and timing which isn't usually on display and it is an area she excels in. Known to be a beautiful dancer, it must be incredibly hard to act like you have two left feet but she does so convincingly! Damian Williams is a competent Edna Turnblad but his performance is relatively one-dimensional. Other great performances come from John Barr as Wilbur and Sophie-Louise Dann as Velma Von Tussle.
The Curve has produced another excellent production in Hairspray so get tickets if you can before it finishes on 5 April 2014.