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Theatre Review: Hairspray - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭✭

Review by Ellen Cree

Welcome to the 60s! Let Hairspray transport you to Baltimore! The musical phenomenon tells the inspiring story of Tracy (Freya Sutton), daughter of the hilarious plus size Edna (Tony Maudsley) and Wilbur (Peter Duncan) Turnblad, who lives to dance. Tracy, who is often discriminated against for her size, auditions to be a council member/dancer on her favourite television programme The Corny Collins Show beside the handsome Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour). Despite originally being rejected by the the show’s producer Velma Von Tussle (Claire Sweeney) and her snooty daughter and Link’s girlfriend Amber (Lauren Stroud) for “not having the right look”, Tracy’s determination along with the support of her loyal friends Penny (Monique Young) and Seaweed (Dex Lee), Tracy is noticed by Corny (Jon Tsouras) himself and given the spot on the show.

Along with the musical’s feel good nature, there are larger, more important themes that are displayed, such as the integration and segregation issues that were taking place in the USA at the time which plays are very large part of the musical. Motormouth Maybelle (Brenda Edwards), who hosts the Corny Collins show once a month on ‘Negro Day’ plays an significant role in this aspect of the musical. She is a fantastic mother figure to not only her own two children Seaweed and Little Inez (Karis Jack) but also to the other kids in their community. She, along with Tracy and the others, she fights for change and for the Corny Collins Show to become fully integrated.

Personally, Hairspray has always been one of the ultimate feel good musicals which always has me itching to get up and dance. Having seen the UK Tour in Winter 2010 and the 2007 film numerous times, my high expectations were met. Freya Sutton brought Tracy to life with her warmth and beautiful voice and fab dance moves. Sutton and Monique Young in the role of Penny (one of my favourite characters from any musical) make a fantastic duo as Young’s comical moments compliment Sutton’s endearing personality. While on the topic of duos, Tony Maudsley and Peter Duncan are the perfect comedic pairing which is especially shown in the musical number and one of the show highlights; You’re Timeless To Me which leaves the whole audience in stitches. Claire Sweeney and Lauren Stroud perfectly channel the egotistical, mean Von Tussles and Ashley Gilmour as Link Larkin will leave you swooning.

My favourite part of the stage show has always been the Motormouth Maybelle’s number I Know Where I’ve Been, and Brenda Edwards’ stunning voice successfully captivated the whole audience, leaving us all speechless. With a heart of stone, even I was left quite teary during the emotional, powerful ballad. Karis Jack conveyed Little Inez’s fiery attitude and displayed some amazing dancing, which left me questioning my own talent. Another one of my favourite characters from Hairspray is the smooth Seaweed, who captures mine and Penny’s hearts alike. Vanessa Fisher, Bobbie Little and Aiesha Pease play the sassy Dynamite singers who carry numbers such as Welcome to the 60s with their incredible voices. Finally, how can anyone forget the fantastic Corny Collins himself, Jon Tsouras? Tsouras brings a very admirable quality to Collins, and my only complaint is that he isn’t featured enough!

Hairspray not only has a fantastic principal cast, but has an extremely strong ensemble. The dancing will leave you in awe due to the mesmerising choreography. The set is also great, although I did hope for a slightly more impressive Har-De-Har Hut. Something I always think of when talking about Hairspray are the stunning costumes. They really are one of the standout points of the production, especially because the dresses are simply beautiful and really help set the atmosphere and overall tone of the show, and of course, the hair!

With a full house and standing ovation on opening night, Hairspray is not to be missed. If you're not at the Playhouse this week, you’ll be kicking yourself, because everyone is going to be raving about how fantastic Hairspray is!

Hairspray is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 27th February. For tickets and information visit the Edinburgh Playhouse website

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