Hairspray

Hairspray is a musical which has become popular recently following the smash hit movie staring John Travolta. It has been on Broadway and is currently enjoying a successful run on the West End in London which is where we went to see it last month.

For those of you who don’t know the storyline, Hairspray is set in the early 1960’s in Baltimore, USA. Tracy Turnblad is an outgoing school girl with big hair and a love of dance. She longs to star in her favourite TV dance programme “The Corny Collins Show” and dance opposite her heartthrob Link Larkin. However Tracy’s larger figure doesn’t not go down well with the shows producer. Will Tracy’s dancing skills win the day and will she win the heart of Link, you need to go to find out. Thrown in with this light story is also a more thought provoking look at the issues with the segregation of blacks and whites in those times and the breaking down of those barriers.

I had watched the film and enjoyed the singing and dancing and thought it would be nice to go and see it when we were in London. The musical is being shown in Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Avenue. Heading to the theatre there were crowds of people outside making their way in. What seemed to be holding people up were that they were checking peoples bags as you entered and then labelling them as being checked. None of the other theatres we attended did this but it was maybe just their security policy, we all managed to make our way through were directed towards our seats. As we were already seeing two other shows during this trip to London we had opted to get some cheaper tickets for Hairspray (we paid 25.50 each) and were seated up in the Grand Circle. You do feel very high up (not for those who suffer from vertigo) and quite far away from the stage but you still get a good view of what is going on.

The curtain lifts and the first number “Good Morning, Baltimore” begins with Tracy Turnblad waking and singing from her vertical bed on stage! So begins the show and a whole host of catchy songs, dancing and great music.

The costumes and hair in this production are amazing. The show uses 175 wigs and the cast get through 80 cans of hairspray a week. The hair needs to stay in place well as the dancing can be quite energetic at times! You really feel you are being transported back to the 1960s with a combination of the music, the outfits and the hairstyles. I think this shows it is such a successful musical because you get lost in the moment and forget where you are.

The scenery is somewhat more simple compared to some of the other West End shows. Much of the scenery is pushed on and fairly basic just to act as a backdrop rather than an integral part of the show. However the show has such good singing and dancing the scenery doesn’t really matter.

On the day we went Tracy Turnblads was played by the alternate however she did the role really well. Her character is great fun, she comes across as full of energy and fun and love for music. She also has a love of justice and a desire to do what is right. The role is usually played by Leanne Jones who was a newcomer to the West End having previously worked in a bank before landing the lead role. Link Larkin is played by Ben James-Ellis who many will know as one of the semi finalists in the television series “Any Dream Will Do” searching for the new Joseph.

Michael Ball makes an amazing transformation into Edna Turnblad, it takes the hair and make-up team over 2 hours to complete the look. You wouldn’t know it was him to look at. He plays the role really well and brings a great sense of fun and humour to the show.

I really did enjoy this show, its fun, got great music and dancing and is a really pleasant way to spend an evening or an afternoon. If you enjoyed the film then you will definitely enjoy the musical, it’s a nice feel good show that you can’t stop yourself from bopping along to the music! If you want to see it I would recommend going before April 2009 if you can as that’s when Micheal Ball has signed up to performing until.

The performances are on a Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm and on a Thursday and a Saturday at 3pm.

The show lasts for 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute interval.

Micheal Ball is not playing the role of Edna Turnblad on Monday evenings. For the times when he is on holiday check the website www.hairspraythemusical.co.uk.

Tickets cost from 22.50 to 62.50.