Big, bold and beautiful – ‘Hairspray’ at New Wimbledon Theatre is an electrifying musical romp that had me dying to get up and join them on stage.
From the very outset of the plus-sized show the Hairspray cast, directed by Paul Kerryson, generates an exhilarating energy with its toe-tapping tunes and swinging sixties spirit.
The musical comedy, set in 1962 Baltimore, follows larger-than-life Tracy Turnblad, performed by Freya Sutton, pursuing her dream of dancing fame and conquering race inequality.
Tracy’s newfound stardom with The Nicest Kids in Town on The Corny Collins TV Show also leads her to bagging resident hunk and Elvis wannabe Link Larkin, performed by the oozingly smooth Ashley Gilmour.
Despite it being a cold and dark evening in Wimbledon, the opening hit Good Morning Baltimore beat away the Autumn blues as it teased the laughter, love and lively melodies that characterise the fun-loving musical.
I Can Hear The Bells and Without Love were two other musical numbers that got me singing along but the shows’ finale You Can’t Stop The Beat was by far my favourite and it seems I wasn’t the only one as its infectious energy had the whole audience out of their seats dancing along.
I particularly loved it when one enthusiastic dancer in the ensemble ran around the auditorium during the finale, spontaneously high-fiving some of the audience members sat next to me.
There were a number of exceptional performances throughout the family-friendly musical, including Tony Maudsley who was great as Tracy’s curvaceous mum Edna Turnblad.
The Benidorm actor’s character rightly got him most of the night’s laughs.
Despite his flamboyant and pantomime-esque style, I thought that Tony perfectly fused humour with warmth and compassion as we were allowed to step inside the Turnblads’ slightly dysfunctional world.
SOLIDARITY: Hairspray also addresses segregation in 1960s’ America
Former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan starred as Wilbur Turnblab and he, along with Tony, were a side-splitting combination as Tracy’s parents and their ad-libbing didn’t fail to have me chuckling during their duet of You’re Timeless To Me.
Former X Factor contestant Brenda Edwards was outstanding as Motormouth Maybelle, especially during the souring highs of Big, Blonde and Beautiful.
Jon Tsouras also impressed as cheesy yet cool host, Corny Collins, while Dex Lee was striking throughout the show for his incredible athleticism in his performance as Seaweed.
One of my personal favourites was Claire Sweeney who was a wickedly witty Velma Von Tussle as she portrayed convincingly the scheming and sizeist producer of The Corny Collins Show.
While the revived musical does not shock quite as much as the original, behind all the glitz and razzmatazz the plot puts the spotlight firmly on the racial segregation of 1960s’ America.
At times I thought the stage’s somewhat basic scenery was rather wobbly but the action kept moving with the impressively slick dance numbers, choreographed by Drew McOnie.
The fact the show received a standing ovation at the end of the opening night epitomises how this magnificent, feel-good show didn’t fail to impress not only me, but the whole audience.
You won’t find a better way to brighten up the dark winter nights in Wimbledon.
Hairspray is on at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday November 7.
For more information and to buy tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/hairspray-the-musical/new-wimbledon-theatre
Pictures courtesy of Ellie Kurttz, with thanks