Since the original movie released in 1988 starring Devine, through the original Broadway production in 2002, to the film remake in 2007 starring John Travolta there has been a huge cult following of this feel good, fun for all ages, musical. Having opened in London also in 2007 it has been doing great business and now the original UK Tour is in full swing and if the audience at the opening night in Edinburgh Playhouse is anything to go by then it will carry on for a very long time too.
Set in 1962 in the Maryland town of Baltimore, ‘pleasantly plump’ teenager Tracy Turnblad, Laurie Scarth, has a dream to be famous and to dance on the TV dancing programme The Corny Collins Show. She takes the chance to audition for a role on the show but racist and sizeist producer Velma Von Tussle, Gillian Kirkpatrick, try’s to veto her and promote her own daughter Amber, Clare Halse. Show heartthrob Link Larkin, Liam Doyle, and Tracy form a mutual attraction, yet he is supposed to be with Amber so a love triangle ensues. She is always in trouble at school what with ‘excessive hairstyles’ and the odd truancy often lands her in detention where she meets with black dancer Seaweed Stubbs, Wayne Robertson, whose mother Motormouth Maybelle, Sandra Marvin, runs a record store and hostess of Negro day, the once a month special.
Back in 62, integration of the races was not allowed, the black community getting a one day a month special only, but this is something Tracy is determined to address and with the assistance of friend Penny Pingleton, Emma Dukes, and the black community which leads them into a number of scrapes.
Throughout an upbeat production there is always the underlying message of racism and sizeism bubbling under the surface, but the fun and comedy values that exude take away any edge of preaching that may be otherwise a bit of a downer. Highly to the for with the comedy roles are Tracy’s mum, Edna, Michael Ball and father Wilbur, played by ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz. The script is full of comedy material, and these two ‘veterans’ extract every ounce of value from it.
The direction of the show is superb; there at times seem to be thousands of cast manoeuvring around on stage, yet complex dance routines pepper the entire production and are executed with aplomb.
As one would expect the quality of the singing is superb throughout the cast, both principals and ensemble, and the colourful costumes certainly add to the spectacle on offer.
I was aware of a couple of the better known numbers prior to going to the show, but was generally impressed with the ‘other’ numbers too. There is really no downside to this production. The energy and talent that flow out across the auditorium and engulfed everyone, and was reflected in the standing ovation that was unanimously drawn from the packed opening night.
Long before the opening night this show was quickly heading for a sell-out but there may be an odd ticket or two available, and if you can get one please do, you wouldn’t want to be the ones to miss out.
Check out where the tour goes next and a whole host of other information on their website www.hairspraythetour.com