‘I know where I’ve been’, and that’s watching Hairspray at Birmingham Hippodrome. The touring show did not disappoint avid musical theatre fans as they mumbled about the amount of talent on the way out. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Entering a packed theatre, there was an air of anticipation as the lights dimmed low. So let’s start from the very beginning.
The curtains open on Tracy Turnblad in 1962. We meet a misfit who dreams of dancing on the ‘Corny Collins Show’, but in reality she is constantly in detention. Tracy falls in love with the show’s star Link Larkin and manages to dance her way in front of the cameras. However, whilst the lights are shining and the costumes are glittering, the show has a darker undertone. The group of black dancers march in the streets, protesting for change. Our protagonist Tracy helps, as they shouldn’t only be allowed to dance on ‘Negro Day’, but should be treated as equals to white people.
Although the show was filled with show-stopping tunes such as, ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ and ‘Welcome to the 60s’ – I found the dancing performances to be the most enjoyable part. Namely, Layton Williams (playing Seaweed), had the audience cheering through ‘Run and Tell That’ with his outstanding gymnastics. The cast as a whole seemed to move as a unit as the show progressed, and every dance move was incredibly slick. Some characters, however, had more powerful vocals than they did dance shoes. Brenda Edwards (playing Motormouth) received a standing ovation in the middle of her heart-wrenching solo, ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’, as the soul and passion she portrayed couldn’t be ignored.
Another aspect of the show that couldn’t be ignored was Edna and Wilbur’s duet, ‘You’re Timeless To Me’. It had the audience in hysterics, cheering and clapping. What could be funnier than seeing a man dressed as a woman with a shorter man posing as ‘her’ husband? The innuendos were so clearly written and immaculately timed that even Matt Rixon (playing Edna) and Edward Chitticks (playing Wilbur) could not keep straight faces.
I feel that Hairspray is a family show that is upbeat and colourful, yet educational at the same time and carries with it an important message. The well-loved musical is a reminder to never forget the way the world used to be, whilst simultaneously motivating every audience to keep pressing on, even today, to bring about the change in the world that everyone deserves.
The Hairspray tour unfortunately has finished in Birmingham. But don’t let that dishearten you! Follow this link to see where the show is stopping as there may be a performance near your hometown. There’s no better reason to bunk a seminar. So ‘Run and Tell That’.