• Frances

Hairspray Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester

John Walters 1988 cult classic Hairspray follows the queen-sized Tracy Turnblad and her bubble gum toting bestie as they seek out a spot on the Corny Collins dance show.

The 1960s brings a colourful cast of characters and with an open slot, the cool kids are looking for a dancer that is ahead of the trends. Fortunately for Corny, Tracy is looking to audition. Having borrowed a few moves from her black friends in Special Ed class, she hopes to integrate her new-found ethnic flavour into the shows all-white aesthetic. It seems the only thing slowing her progress is the show’s producer, Velma Von Tussle who is fighting for her all-American daughter, Amber to take centre stage. But as she moves towards her dream to dance with her new friends on the show, Tracy finds her body positive, progressive attitude may set her back.

After Walters’ film was transformed into a Tony and Emmy award-winning stage musical in 2002, it was remade into a film musical starring John Travolta, Queen Latifah and Zack Efron. While the original films gritty underdog has been cleaned up for a glittery musical remake, there are only a few alterations that separate the live performance from its film musical adaptation. The most notable difference is the casting.

Here, the blonde baddies played by Gina Murray (Velma) and Aimee Moore (Amber) are fantastic with strong vocals and brilliant comedic timing. Murray delivers a solo of (The Legend Of) Miss Baltimore Crabs that allows her to show her full talent. Murray being lifted, thrown and twirled around the stage by male dancers while hitting all the high notes of the number, is one of the best performances of the production. However, the show boasts a jukebox of memorable tunes, offering back to back hits performed by powerful singers and accompanied by an eight-piece live band.

The fabulous soundtrack is brought to life with a deconstructive set that breaks away at the corners to reveal the teen's apartments and lifts its back to expose the Corny show. The band often remain housed away as there’s already plenty of action on stage, including choreography that allowed Layton Williams (Seaweed) to flip around the stage like a member of Cirque du Soleil.

The productions B-movie tone is a great departure from a typical theatre production as puppet rats’ scatter across Tracy’s feet and the hyped-up energy of its ensemble kept a fast joke counter and great pace for the comedy. However, not all the eye-popping moments were positive. Why the phrase “plastic little spastic” has not been edited out of the UK run is beyond me. Nevertheless, Hairspray the Musical (excluding its dated lines) has bags of charm and expands on its original material perfectly.

You can also watch Hairspray Live on Amazon

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