REVIEW: Hairspray the Musical | Opera House Manchester


Good Morning Manchester, the nicest kids in town are back with a welcome to the 60s as Hairspray the musical takes the stage.

You all know the story. Tracy Turnblad is a big girl with big dreams and an even bigger personality that far outweigh her home town of Baltimore. She auditions to be part of The Corny Collins Show, a popular dance show where everyday teens turn local TV stars. Against all odds she is accepted as the new girl in town. Before you know it she is paving the way for racial integration, a huge political change this small town is reluctant to allow.

Don’t forget to read my reviews of On Your Feet and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

The Stars

Rebecca Mendoza (Tracy) was bubbly and enthusiastic with a fabulous amount of boogy in her booty. She exaggerated her character to a cartoonish level, easily overpowering her counter part Edward Chitticks (Link) who lacked a little energy. Annalise Liard-bailey (Penny) was silly and peculiar but maybe a little too similar to the Amanda Bynes version.

Jon Tsouras (Corny Collins) was suave, classy and capitalised on his sarcasm. Understudy Graham MacDuff (Wilbur) and Matt Rixon (Edna) made for a classic comedy duo and found lots of opportunity to adlib as Tracy’s parents, especially in ‘You’re Timeless to Me’. Their chemistry was infectious and together injected playfulness into the show.

Layton Williams (Seaweed) might not have filled his songs but he more than made up for that with his incredible dancing. I was impressed with his transformation into this cool and sexy character, a stark difference from his role in Bad Education. Gina Murray (Velma Von Tussle) and Brenda Edwards (Motormouth) brought the strongest vocals to the Musical with their deep and delicious tones, as did the Dynamites.


The Sound

The Music is pretty much exactly the same as the film. This familiarity is comforting as you can tap and mouth along to the tunes. Never sing along though. Nobody should ever do that in the theatre. Unless instructed to for interactivity of course. ‘It Takes Two’ and ‘I Can Hear the Bells’ are particularly funny, with Tracy stealing the scenes with her over the top facial acrobatics.

At times I felt like the dialogue dragged. It needed more oomph. I think I was missing the music at these points. The sound really lifted the show. I particularly enjoyed the eight piece live band placed upstage in their white as white suits. This felt relevant to the decade and I would have much rather seen them the whole way through.


The Look

Big hair, bright costumes and bouncy routines transport you back to the swinging 60s in this Musical production. It’s such an iconic era that they manage to imitate perfectly.

The set is minimal. Barely there even. Even the set they did have was a little clunky, especially when they wheeled in sections during a scene. That was a little odd and distracting. I do have to comment on the poor projection used to support the location changes. The quality was lacking and it really didn’t bring any glamour to the glimmering sixties.

However, the saving grace was the choreography. It was quirky, stylised and light. The ensemble scenes brought the stage to life and boosted the energy of the show. This was particularly evident in the final number, ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’, which had the audience up on their feet.

Hairspray is an upbeat, feel good Musical that gets you moving and grooving. Just like the film and maybe even funnier.

Buy tickets to Hairspray at the London Coliseum. Tickets from £18.

Book tickets to Hairspray on tour. Touring the UK until 14 November 2020.

Hairspray played in Manchester until Saturday 7th April.


1 Comment

  1. April 7, 2018 / 12:47 PM

    I went to see Hairspray in London many moons ago when micheal ball was in it! Me and a friend queued at the box office the morning of the show and got front row tickets for £20 each! Such a cheesy musical but we really enjoyed it! What a shame that the production was a little bit for let down though, you definitely don’t want the set or lack of to be distracting thats for sure!


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