You can’t stop the motion of the ocean, and you certainly can’t stop yourself smiling the whole way through the wonderful touring production of Hairspray, which rolled into Liverpool last night.
Set in 1962, Hairspray is jam-packed with big hair, big hearts and even bigger laughs. Baltimore’s larger than life Tracey Turnblad, wonderfully performed by newcomer Freya Sutton, is transformed from outsider to overnight teen sensation after bagging a spot on local TV programme, The Corny Collins Show. Hairspray is an homage to the swinging 60’s, with colourful costumes and toe tapping music, but it also tackles the darker issues of race and segregation throughout the era, and a young girl’s journey to be accepted, regardless of her size.
Many of the big laughs come from the loveable Penny Pingleton’s (Lauren Hood) naivety and her ditzy quips. As Tracey’s loyal, supporting sidekick, Hood’s comic timing ensured the stalls were filled with laughter.
Although each individual character gives pitch perfect vocal performances, Motormouth Maybelle’s (Sandra Marvin) rendition of Big, Blonde & Beautiful actually warranted a standing ovation throughout the song, so mesmerized were the audience of Marvin hitting some outrageously high notes.
Without question though, the star of the show is Seaweed, played by Liverpool’s very own Marcus Collins, who received a warm welcome upon his return to his home city. Though trained in musical theatre, Hairspray is Marcus’s theatrical debut and he explained how Seaweed was a role he just couldn’t say no to; “Obviously I’ve been a hairdresser, so you could say that helped the show appeal to me on a level! Hairspray is one of my favourite productions and there was no way I could turn it down, the role was perfect for me. Seaweed is really fun to play; he’s a cool kid, a trend setter and always gets a good reaction from the audience”.
Speaking prior to the opening night of the production, Marcus also revealed how excited he was to bring the tour to Merseyside; “I cannot wait to get back to the city – I think 3/4 of the audience will be my family and friends and I’m excited to show them what I’ve been working on.” With a raucous response to Collins’ exceptional portrayal of Seaweed, it was evident that Liverpool extremely impressed with just what he’d been working on.
There’s no doubt about it, Hairspray is big, bold and bursting with talented stars – a musical guaranteed to have you singing and dancing along in your seat.
Verdict: **** Excellent
Liverpool Empire Theatre
Writers: Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
Music and Lyrics: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman Director: Jack O’Brien
Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell
Cast: Mark Benton, Lucy Benjamin, Marcus Collins, Freya Sutton, Sandra Marvin
Running time: 150 minutes (Including interval)
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