Hairspray the Musical at Royal & Derngate

AD – Press invite: I received complimentary tickets in exchange for an honest review.

You can’t stop the beat coming to Northampton this week! 

This upbeat, 60’s loving and star-dazzling show is here for one week only at Royal & Derngate and it’s one show, in particular, that’s been high on my theatre-watch list – and it was well worth the wait!

Hairspray the Musical is based on the 1988 film of the same name. Set in 1962 Baltimore, Maryland, it tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, whose dream is to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance program. When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight, leading to social change as Tracy campaigns for the show’s integration.

The whole cast of Hairspray on Tour – photo credit: Mark Senior

The soundtrack is very “downtown” and features a lot of 1960’s-style dance, rhythm and blues all thanks to Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman who wrote the music and lyrics – highlight songs include “The Nicest Kids in Town”, “Welcome to the 60’s” and of course the iconic “You Can’t Stop The Beat”. 

The set itself is versatile and makes use of sets coming from either side of the stage to portray different locations, from Edna’s living room/ironing spot, Motormouth’s record shop and Penny’s bedroom.

The show opens with Tracy Turnblad waking up on a typical morning in Baltimore singing her opening number “Good Morning Baltimore”. I couldn’t believe it when I flicked through the programme to see that this is Katie Brace’s professional debut!

You definitely wouldn’t have known – she came across as a well-seasoned performer who has heaps of confidence, charm and quirkiness that makes her such a loveable Tracey Turnblad – I loved her performance! 

Katie Bruce as Tracey Turnblad. Photo credit: Mark Senior
Photo credit: Mark Senior

Brenda Edwards, best known for being on X Factor and Loose Women, played the iconic Motormouth Maybelle and my goodness that woman can belt a tune! Her vocals didn’t disappoint and she brought the theatre down with her rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been” which was emotional, moving and pivotal to the musical’s overarching storyline. 

Alex Bourne’s portrayal of Edna Turnblad was brilliant. He took on the role and made it his own, whilst teasing the audience and cracking the whole theatre up with his one-liners. I particularly couldn’t stop laughing when he and Norman Pace, who plays Wilbur Turnblad, performed their duet “Timeless To Me” and well… you had to be there! 

Even the pair of them couldn’t stop giggling which made for a fourth wall break that brought us in and we loved it. 

Norman Pace and Alex Bourne as Wilbur and Edna Turnblad. Photo credit: Mark Senior

A couple of other cast highlights for me include Rebecca Thornhill who plays Miss Baltimore Crabs herself, Velma Von Tussle who brought sass, sophistication and fantastic vocals. Reece Richards who plays Seaweed was loveable, a brilliant supporting actor who has so much talent and one I craved to watch every time he came on stage. 

Little Inez was definitely one of the biggest stars of the show, played by Charlotte St Croix. Her vocals are something out of this world, even when she wasn’t centre stage, she was always catching my eye with her comedic reacting skills and she is a little star in the making of that one. 

Overall, the ensemble cast and the rest of the principal cast are a well-oiled machine who make up an incredible stage presence that was thoroughly wonderful to watch. 

It’s a feel-good show that will leave you with the soundtrack stuck in your head and there’s nothing quite like a full theatre full of happy people on their feet dancing to the finale with the cast! 

Tickets can be purchased here.

★★★★★

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