Hairspray at the Orchard Theatre
Hairspray is a brilliant musical – great storyline, brilliantly written book, great catchy numbers and plenty of opportunity for impressive choreography….so no pressure when I go and see productions of it. Hairspray follows Tracey Turnblad on her mission to become a dancer on the Corny Collins show however she soon realises that there is something much bigger to play for – integration.
The first thing that hit me was the choreography by Drew McOnie. Each number had a great authentic feel to it whilst still being fresh. Some moments were well contrasted with Seaweed and friends leaping and doing floor work whilst the council remained upright (and uptight) with neat moves. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of this contrasting moments in the opening number, ‘Good Morning Baltimore,’ to help set the scene for what was to come but overall the choreography was not only impressive but fitted in well with the story.
Layton Williams played Seaweed and his dance ability is insane. I ended up being drawn to him when ever he was performing just waiting to see what he would pull off next. His moments with Annalise Liard-Bailey, who played Penny Pingleton, were often comedy gold.
You can’t review Hairspray and not mention Tracey in the review. She barely leaves the stage and the show can’t succeed unless you are rooting for her. Rebecca Mendoza took on this role and came across as extremely likable. My main criticism of her was that she didn’t have a big enough voice. Tracey is supposed to be a big character in all ways and this includes her voice. I was also disappointed with Edward Chitticks who played Link Larkin. Whilst he had a smooth and charismatic side his voice just didn’t live up to the crooning you expect from Link Larkin.
The pairing of Matt Rixon and Norman Pace as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad was also inspired. They bounced (often literally) off each other well and Rixon drew the line intelligently between man in drag and a character you care about. Finally, in discussing the cast I have to mention Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle. Her 2 numbers, ‘Big Blonde and Beautiful’ and ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ were delivered with a huge gospel voice style voice and the latter number in particular really helped the message of the show come across.
I adored all of the costumes from the pretty council dresses and colouful suits to the dynamites sequinned numbers again with the councils costumes contrasting nicely against Seaweeds and his friends. The set was also well designed and allowed quick and smooth transitions from scene to scene. At times the stage did feel a little empty, although understandably its a touring set so may have been designed for smaller stages. One criticism was the follow spot operator. Normally I wouldn’t comment on small niggles such as this but the pick ups were either consistently early or late and quite often on the wrong person or just missing the person they were aiming for. After a while this became distracting and spoilt what was otherwise a beautifully lit show.
Overall Hairspray is a fun show bursting with heart and this is what this production delivers, wrapped up with stunning choreography and noteworthy performances from some of the leads. You certainty can’t stop the beat with this show…..and why would I want to try!
Find out more about this tour of Hairspray on their Website.
If you liked this review you might also like my review of Chicago and Dreamboats and Petticoats both at the Orchard, The Wedding Singer which is currently touring as well as 42nd Street in the West End.