Hairspray Review: A Toe-tapping Night at the Shaftesbury!

The Shaftesbury Theatre is currently home to Hairspray. It is the perfect spot for a perfect show! The classic, Roman decor is beautiful, the seats very comfortable and the theatre laid out well. The Stalls area was easy to move around in and the number of aisles was perfect to help people get to their seats. There were crystal chandeliers, angels, Roman figures, lions, cherubs… all of great detail. There was even beautiful scenic wall paintings above the box seats. Speaking of boxes, there are 8 boxes that seem to have a good view as they protrude out instead of being flush with the wall. People sitting there seemed to be sitting comfortably and enjoying themselves. The lights and speakers were placed strategically so that they didn’t really stand out or take away from the beauty of the theatre. I would comment that the bars need an extra person or two at intermission. The line-ups were atrocious and after waiting for almost the whole intermission, I got to the counter to be told they didn’t have any bottled water and I had to go to another bar. Other than that… staff seemed friendly / polite, the theatre seemed clean / well-maintained.

I’m afraid I have a new favorite! Sorry Mamma Mia (which has moved to a very close second now). The ‘Welcome’ greeting at the beginning of the shows always help set the mood, it seems. Reminding people that it was Baltimore 1962 before the time of mobiles and hoping we could return to that time, i.e.: turn your mobile off. I enjoyed the movie so figured I would enjoy the theatre version, however, I wasn’t prepared for enjoying it more than the movie or enjoying it more than other favorite theatre shows.

Right from the first note, it was just energy, laughter, and toe-tapping songs. From the first song, ‘Good morning Baltimore’… it just didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop moving involuntarily… either tapping my toes, bobbing my head or dancing in my seat. The audience, myself included seemed so into the show. You felt like you were in the audience of ‘The Corny Collins Show’ or engrossed in the lives of some real people. I loved being part of their lives, so to speak. The family bond of the Turnblads was something so nice to see in an age where family sometimes appears to take a back seat. Adam Price was ‘priceless’ as Wilbur Turnblad. Brian Conley was unbelievably believable as Edna Turnblad. It’s sometimes weird watching a man play a woman’s role but it really wouldn’t be the same otherwise in this instant. Welcome to the show, Brian! Good job! I adored Chloe Hart, who as Tracy Turnblad wanted to make you want to abolish segregation and to follow your dreams. She has a great voice and can really hit those notes. You couldn’t help but root for her… wanting her to obtain her dreams including getting the love of her life, Link Larkin played by Liam Tamne. Speaking of hitting those notes, Link did a pretty good job himself! The dancing of all the cast was excellent but most noticeable was that of Seaweed played by Adrian Hansel. He really had the moves! Motormouth Maybelle (Sandra Marvin) is a great singer and stand-out personality.

It’s not just a fun, happy, energetic show… it has meaning, too. It was a reminder that everyone isn’t equal… that people who look different are treated different… maybe not as much as in 1962 but still so. In particular… ‘big, blond and beautiful’ women and people who are not white get the shaft but that changes with the determination of one young lady and the encouragement of Edna, Wilbur, Motormouth, Link, Seaweed, and best friend Penny Pingleton (played by Verity Rushworth)! Go, Tracy! There were scenes when you could feel the oppression and sympathize and also cheer when ‘colored’ people decided to rise above the oppression and take their rightful place in society even with a start like integrating on a TV show.

Of course, Hairspray, isn’t just the title of the show… it does involve Hairspray and boy, they must go through tons of it. I read that 175 hand-made wigs are used in this production and cast go through 80 cans of hairspray a week.

I enjoyed the ‘I can hear the bells’ song, almost got caught up and clapped with the kids at the Patterson Park High School Sophomore Spring Hair Hop, and couldn’t help but laugh when Edna’s voice got really DEEP like when she says, ‘Excuse Me’ when talking to snooty Velma Von Tussle played by Liz Robertson.

The whole show was absolutely fantastic… no question about it. There is not one part that was ‘so-so’ or where you might be bored. One scene in particular though just had me laughing so hard… it was the ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ scene with Edna and Wilbur Turnblad. I didn’t notice until after I got home but my eyeliner had extended outward with nice black streaks as the tears filled my eyes from laughter and I tried to wipe the tears away. It was also touching… a love song between a husband and wife who obviously loved each other no matter what the other looked like or acted like. They were perfect as they are which is how spouses should feel about their other half. Even Brian and Adam had a hard time with the scene as the crowd roared with laughter and cheered with wild abandonment. The cast must have such a fun time with this show.

‘You can’t stop the beat!’ It will live on. I was so impressed with the energetic and brilliant performances of the cast. This is a show I would go see again. It leaves you wanting more. The audience didn’t want to leave at the end and waited for the performers to come out again. Bravo, Hairspray, bravo! If you want a ‘feel good’ time… go see Hairspray today!

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:5.0/5]

Book Tickets for Hairspray the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre!

Michael Ball Extends Until April 2009!

Michael Ball stars as Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s larger than life mother. He has recently announced that he will continue to play the role that won him the title of BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL at this year’s Olivier Awards and What’s on Stage Theatregoers Choice Awards, until April 2009.

Hairspray Now Booking Until October 2009

HAIRSPRAY, the smash hit musical comedy, playing in Shaftesbury Theatre that was “WOS THEATREGOERS CHOICE AWARDS 2008” has been a great success and therefore management of the theatre has decided to prolong its run until October 2009.

Hairspray dominated this year’s theatre award ceremonies, claiming the title of Best Musical in the 2008 Olivier Awards and What’s on Stage Theatregoers Choice awards. The all-singing, all-dancing spectacular at the Shaftesbury Theatre stars Michael Ball as you’ve never seen him before, alongside critically acclaimed newcomer Leanne Jones. Now entering its 2nd smach-hit year.

Hairspray is the West End’s happiest, sunniest and funniest show!

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Hairspray The Musical Reviews

Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com (four stars) – “The ecstatic choreography of Jerry Mitchell combines with the delightful, primary-coloured costumes of Broadway veteran William Ivey Long to create a riotous scene at the oversize shop where mother and daughter are kitted out in style and the resident mannequins include a Supremes tribute trio. Director Jack O’Brien has tapped adventurously into the British talent pool, not only in giving the richly voiced Michael Ball a role to relish, but teaming him with the wonderfully rumpled Mel Smith as the toyshop owner husband – he brings a battered vaudevillian charm to their “Timeless to Me” duet – as well as discovering the powerhouse talent of Leanne Jones as Tracy. Tracie Bennett makes a good impression, too, as the vampiric television producer, and Elinor Collett and Adrian Hansel are a dynamic duo on the dance floor where the beat you can’t stop erases the social divide. This is indeed a rare thing: a totally daffy and delightful musical where the serious issues are as good for you as a big stick of pink candyfloss.”

Michael Billington in the Guardian (four stars) – “Where the show really scores is in its ability to integrate serious issues into a lightweight plot. Jerry Mitchell’s joyous choreography is the beating heart of the show. There is something dionysiac about it; and, if the show achieves the ecstasy one looks for in a musical, it comes largely through the dance routines. But the performances, in Jack O’Brien’s deliciously fluid production, underline the show’s basic benevolence. Leanne Jones is a remarkable Tracy with a talent as high and wide as her scooped-up hair. She puts across Marc Shaiman’s numbers with belting brio. And Michael Ball is very funny as her muscular moll of a mum who once entertained dreams of being a designer. “I thought I was going to be the biggest thing in brassieres,” Ball announces in gravel-voiced tones. What makes him so good is that he reminds us that heftiness is not incompatible with haute couture. Mel Smith, as Tracy’s joke-retailing dad, seems underemployed until he joins Ball in a front-cloth duo.”

Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph – “If you are up for a good time, however, and especially if you are a teenage girl who has just downed a couple of alcopops, it will strike you as heaven on earth. You will laugh, you will scream, you might even shed a sentimental tear or two. I even managed to make quite a night of it myself, and I’m male and middle-aged, as the National Theatre boss, Nicholas Hytner, is fond of pointing out … A superb pop score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, which gloriously captures the sounds of pop before the arrival of the Beatles – girl groups, rock and roll, rhythm and blues and an amazing gospel number that almost lifts the roof off the theatre … Director Jack O’Brien ensures that sentiment and laughter are mixed in just the right proportions in a show that offers a sugar-rush of pleasure … I saw Hairspray at the final preview rather than the press night, and the audience’s whooping response and spontaneous standing ovation suggest it could prove to be the big hit that has eluded the Shaftesbury for so long.”

Nicholas de Jongh in the Evening Standard (four stars) – “It comes at us in rare musical parts: the first part is low-camp satire and burlesque: Michael Ball deliciously fattened up and dragged down in bland frocks and lurid gowns, majestically slips into the role of the fat, foghorned laundress, Edna Turnblad … It is through Jones’s endearingly earnest Tracy, who dances with a lightness belying her size, that links between love, comedy and radical politicsare forged … Marc Shaiman’s urgent score, with clever, often witty lyrics written with Scott Whitman, keeps Hairspray pulsating with musical excitement as well as political anger. And Leanne Jones, as smitten, adolescent lover and Miss Teenage Hairspray, effortlessly commands the stage. She will hearten all actresses who imagine that only the pencil-thin can inherit the lead dressing room.”

Simon Edge in the Daily Express (five stars) – “Tracy herself is played by newcomer Leanne Jones, on stage for most of the night as the compulsive dancer whose natural padding cannot spoil her lust for life – or for Link. It’s an impressive, exuberant performance and you can see why the director says she was instantly right for the role. She is well supported by a large cast, including fellow newcomer Ben James-Ellis – a semi-finalist in TV’s Any Dream Will Do – as Link; the ever-wonderful Tracie Bennett as the vicious Velma Von Tussle; a gob-smacking Johnnie Fiori as the black record shop-owner Motormouth Maybelle; and the rubber-faced Mel Smith as Tracy’s salt-of-the-earth dad Wilbur. But the stand-out turn is Ball, scarcely recognisable in the drag role as Tracy’s mother Edna, complete with 54EEE bust … Don’t expect fancy effects or clever spectacle. This is good, honest song-and-dance fun, where the riot of period pastels in the costumes and sets matches the relentless up-beat of the lyrics and tunes. “Prepare for something big!” say the posters: “Big musical, big comedy, big hair!” But the biggest thing about it, apart from Michael Ball’s falsies, is its heart.”

Benedict Nightingale in the Times (four stars) “The musical is as delightful as I recall it being on Broadway three years ago and more immediate than it could ever be in the cinema. True, the tale of chubby, chunky Tracy Turnblad, who wears what looks like a lacquered wolverine on her head and thinks she resembles Jackie Kennedy, is unashamedly and, at times, absurdly sentimental. But when Leanne Jones’ Tracy is bounding about the stage exuding all-American resilience and optimism — well, she brought out the inner cheerleader I didn’t know I had … Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book is a salute to difference. That’s defined both as being fat, like Jones’s Tracy or Michael Ball as her gloriously bloated mother, and, more seriously, as being black in racially divided Maryland. So our heroine’s aim isn’t only to do well on the dance floor, beating her plastic-doll schoolmate Amber, but to integrate Corny Collins’s show, besting Amber’s ruthlessly ambitious, racially bigoted mother, Velma.”

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