Review: Hairspray UK Tour, Royal and Derngate, Northampton

Based on the 1988 film, Hairspray is once again touring the UK. For those familiar with its previous iterations on the stage, it may seem difficult to imagine a production which stands up to those starring the likes of Michael Ball, Chloe Hart and Brian Conley, but this tour does just that.

Katie Brace makes her professional debut as Tracy Turnblad and she is perfect for the role. Aside from ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ all of her subsequent songs being sung with the vigour they deserve, her facial expressions are consistently hilarious and make it difficult to watch anyone else on stage even when she isn’t front and centre.Rebecca Thornhill and Jessica Croll as the formidable Von Tussle duo, do a stellar job of making themselves the most hated pair on stage; but stand out for their talent also. Joshua Pearson (understudy for Link Larkin) is also notable in the role, his voice a delight to listen to.

What really gives the show an edge and makes it far more interesting than the High Kicks and Sparkly Dresses broadway hit it could be, is Drew McOnie’s choreography. It honours the fun original but make it more compelling and adds exceptional attention to detail. What’s particularly wonderful about McOnie’s choreography is that Hairspray didn’t need it, but it brings a whole new level to this production.

Some musical numbers feel as though they could be shortened, ‘You’re Timeless To Me’ just isn’t funny enough to last as long as it does and ‘Cooties’ seems like a filler, adding little to the show. That said, every musical number is high energy and performed brilliantly by an excellent ensemble cast.

It must be said that there undoubtedly comes a level of responsibility when putting on a show like Hairspray; a light hearted big hit with what should be, if executed well, a hard hitting racial and cultural message. Disappointingly, Paul Kerryson’s production could use some closer consideration of the way we should be portraying this in 2022. Perhaps this could start with ensuring that in a protest scene it’s not a white girl holding the sign which reads ‘U.S Means Us Too’ on stage…

Hairspray continues its UK tour until 2nd April 2022. See the tour dates and buy tickets here.

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Emma Betty
Emma Betty

Emma Betty is 26 and a nurse in Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s Paediatric Intensive Care Unit. Emma has the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Soundtrack (On CD!) to blame for her love for Musical Theatre, which she found in her parents living room pretty much as soon as she was old enough to know what it was. She began combining her love for Theatre, the Internet and Writing while she was still at school, through various blogs and on social media. Having moved to London in 2013, she launched Upper Circle 4 years later. A couple of years on, she is delighted to have a small team and is so grateful to those helping Upper Circle to grow every day!

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