BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY, Palace Theatre Manchester, October 26 2015

BWW Review: HAIRSPRAY, Palace Theatre Manchester, October 26 2015

Revived again, the touring favourite Hairspray is again packing out theatres across the country. This new production delivers some impressive performances and a fun evening, if not quite living up to dancing in the aisles quality of the West End original.

This stage adaption of John Waters' 1988 film perhaps doesn't shock quite as much as the original, but still makes an important statement - perhaps none more important than the fact it's one of the few shows with such a diverse cast - still a rarity on the West End and in touring productions.

It's 1962 in Baltimore, Freya Sutton again plays Tracy Turnblad, a plus-sized school girl obsessed with The Corny Collins Show and its lead singer and heartthrob Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour). When she wins a place as a dancer on the show she begins a campaign to make the show racially integrated, much to the annoyance of producer and nemesis Velma Von Tussle (Claire Sweeney).

There's a number of standout performances, particularly Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle, producer of 'Negro Day' - the one day a month when black people are allowed to dance on the TV. Her rendition of the ode to the fight for civil rights in America, I Know Where I've Been, triggers a standing ovation from parts of the auditorium. Tony Maudsley's Edna Turnblad brings the right combination of comedy and empathy to provide excellent support to the young leads without trying to steal the show. One misstep is perhaps the casting of Peter Duncan as devoted father and husband Wilbur Turnblad, given a little bit too much of a slapstick/pantomime performance a little out of step with the rest of the production.

The dancing is very much a highlight, with some really accomplished pieces of choreography along with a number of gravity defying flips which have you holding your breath. Former Billy Elliot Layton Williams is showing just why he's been picked up by Matthew Bourne's New Adventures company.

Hairspray doesn't manage to avoid the problems facing touring productions - the somewhat basic set seemed to wobble precariously at times with the cast looking more than a little unsteady. But the producers haven't shrimped on the music, a proper live band given centre stage prominence makes such a difference to the enjoyment of these shows - hopefully this trend will continue.

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