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Hairspray – Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Writers: Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan

Music and Lyrics: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman

Director: Jack O’Brien

Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson


Hairspray - Mark BentonApologies to anyone at the Bradford Alhambra last night offended by the horrific noise coming from the stalls. But honestly, if you get along there this week to see Hairspray, you won’t be able to stop yourself singing along either!

Hairspray is the fantastically camp and colourful musical based on the John Waters film of the same name (the 1988 original, not just the 2007 Zak Effron affair). Set in the swinging sixties it tells the story of Tracy Turnblad (played to perfection by Freya Sutton, fantastically keeping up the tradition of casting a newcomer in the lead rôle). She’s fighting for everyone’s right to dance on a local TV show regardless of their size or – more importantly in segregated sixties America – their skin colour. Cue crazy set pieces, comedy, poignant ballads and even a jailbreak as she goes about her quest with a big heart and even bigger hair.

Of particular note are three of the shows numbers. I Can Hear the Bells is a cute reflection of every teenage girls inner mind when faced with the school heart throb (in this case Link, played by Luke Stiffler of EastEnders fame – watch out for his Elvis impersonation!). Lovely choreography and some nifty use of props in that number. Similarly so in Welcome to the Sixties where the chorus get the chance to shine as much as the leads, especially the three Dynamites. And finally the understated simplicity of Timeless to Me is brilliantly offset with gleeful comedy timing from Edna (Waterloo Road’s Mark Benton) and Wilbur (Paul Rider using his shortness to great effect). These two are clearly having so much fun up there that they audience can’t help but root for them – and since they have the most aww making kiss of the show they fully deserve their encore too.

In fact the only slight disappointment in the whole cast is X Factor 2011 winner Marcus Collins. Incredible dancer, you just can’t tell a word he sings. You’ll let him off when you watch how he moves his feet though! Choreographer Jerry Mitchell should be proud.

Such a colourful musical can’t be reviewed without making mention of the set and costumes. David Rockwell has designed a simple set combining backdrops and wheeled in set pieces which fluidly set the scene with a grace that’s delightful to see – Har-De-Har Hut’s closing mechanism and the humungous hairspray are two that will definitely wow you. William Ivey Long’s costumes are the perfect reflection of cheesy sixties fashion and glamour, although with all the fabulosity of the finale’s garments it’s a shame to see Tracy dressed so drably for this pivotal scene.

All that’s left to say it that Hairspray comes highly recommend. If you loved the film get your ticket right now and go sing along at the top of your lungs – you really can’t stop the beat, and when it’s this good, why on Earth would you want to?

Photo: Tristram Kenton

Runs until Saturday 21st March


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