Coiffured to perfection

Hairspray

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

IT seems the critics will always be divided on anything that takes the basis of a true historical fact and piles on a heavy dollop of sugar coating in order to just shoehorn it all into another `let's put the show on in the barn' type of a musical .

It's true though that you can't get away from the fact that Hairspray takes a whole era of the USA's segregation and race hate and sweeps the reality well off the stage leaving us to imagine the world was a better place than it actually was.

Set in the 1960s Hairspray tells the story of Baltimore's `extra size‘ but big hearted Tracy Turnblad who single handedly opens the studio door to race equality.

The Corny Collins Show is a dance and music TV programme where segregation is clearly practiced but has a Negro day once month. Tracey applies and wins a spot on the programme, as dancer but then has designs to integrate everyone as in the end it's all just about the music and dancing.

It's a worthy message and if you are in any doubt at the beginning about the theme you are not by the end, as the show just overpowers you with an upbeat feel-good power that practically pins you to your seat.

Freya Sutton is outstanding in the lead role of Tracy and it's hard to believe it's her first professional role, integrating with a very professional and seasoned cast.

Mark Benton finding his feminine side as Edna

You will have seen Mark Benton in a range of TV roles and Commercials but he proved he was a great ‘dame‘ as Edna Turnblad with true comic timing. He created a very touching, and funny music hall routine with Paul Rider, who plays Wilbur Turnblad in the song Timeless to Me.

Adding to the recognisable star quality was Marcus Collins, who is best known for his X factor performance and proved he could actually walk, talk and sing at the same time to a very impressive standard.

The powerhouse moment came from Sandra Marvin who is reprising her West End role as the diva Motormouth Maybelle and practically brought the house down with a single note at the close of I know where I have been.

It's directed by Jack Obrien with Choreography by Jerry Mitchell and they have built one of the best shows you will see this year.

So regardless of your take on the use of the subject matter it's a winner, as I guess in the end no matter what your colour, race or creed  You can't stop the beat. To 01-06-13.

Jeff Grant  

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