Review: Hairspray, New Victoria Theatre Woking

Welcome to the Sixties! Courtesy of this bubbly and lively production of Hairspray, currently on its UK tour. 

Given everything that is happening in America at the moment and the comments that Donald Trump has been making, watching Hairspray proves just how relevant it is today and how things still haven’t really changed from the 1960’s.

On the surface it is a show that follows Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton) who wants to be famous and dance on her local television station on the Corny Collins show, but deeper down it also has a strong central message about how we should celebrate and not discriminate people for being “different” in all kinds of ways.

From the opening number ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ (and there is plenty of songs to get through) all the way to ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’, this energetic production directed by Paul Kerryson can appear slightly superficial in some scenes which lacks in depth – but it still has plenty of heart and fantastic talent to see it through.

Freya Sutton as Tracy is suitably bubbly and has plenty of personality to charm audiences – even if occasionally her vocals don’t seem quite right – but she soon warms up after ‘Good Morning Baltimore’. She is more than equally supported by Matt Rixon as Edna, who tries to keep Tracy grounded but ends up getting carried away herself. Rixon’s performance is the right balance of funny but also sentimental when it comes to the character’s lack of confidence.

Claire Sweeney is delightfully vulgar as Velma and it would have been great if she had been given even more to do. Her swagger and vanity is pure joy to watch but is never over the top to make it seem unbelievable.

But it is Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle who really delivers the most astonishing performance of the night that sticks in the mind. Her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ is so heart wrenchingly good that it sends shivers down the spine. But she is also able to deliver plenty of sass and attitude on ‘Big, Blonde and Beautiful’ – really looking as though she is enjoying herself.

The main problem with the production isn’t the plot or the music, but it seems design wise a bit basic and not as glitzy as I was hoping that would match the style of the musical. However, the emptiness of the stage allows the audience to be wowed by the stunning choreography by Drew McOnie, that perfectly captures the spirit of the era and the talent that performs it – particularly Karis Jack (Little Inez) and Dex Lee (Seaweed) are two to look out for.

It might be corny but it sure knows how to entertain from beginning to end, leaving you walking out of the theatre with a gigantic smile on your face!

Hairspray continues to perform at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until the 19th March, before continuing to tour the UK. To book tickets for the New Victoria Theatre run visit ATG tickets

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