Milton Keynes Theatre can’t stop the beat as it says Hello Baltimore to Hairspray this week.
Hairspray is the ultimate feel-good musical with its vibrant songs and heart-warming story. The story is based around typical teenager, Tracy Turnblad living in Baltimore during the early 60’s. It’s a common theme of love, peer pressure and racism. Okay racism isn’t always a common theme but the show addresses it well and still keeps its light-hearted approach.
From the first scene of Tracy in an upright bed (so we can see her), she is instantly likeable which makes the whole show work. Tracy is played by Rebecca Mendoza and gives a dazzling performance of a chubby but enthusiastic teenager, her love of dancing and watching the Corny Collins show. Tracy’s dream would be to dance on this show. This is Rebecca’s professional debut but you wouldn’t know it as she is perfect for the role. We are soon introduced to Tracy’s mother, Edna who cleans and irons other people’s clothes for a living. This role is traditionally played by a man. Matt Rixon honed his inner motherly instincts and is very believable as a woman. He comes across as a very caring mother and I would go so far to say Matt is the best Edna I've ever seen. Edna’s husband is Wilbur at this performance is played by Graham MacDuff and together they give Morecombe and Wise a run for their money as their comedic timing is perfect, especially during the number ‘You’re timeless to me’. At this performance they couldn’t stop laughing during their number which made the audience laugh too. At one point, Wilbur is spooning Edna and she says she can feel the bells (a twist on a song in the show ‘I can hear the bells’). We knew what she meant and laughed alongside them making it a highlight of the show.
Tracy’s best friend is Penny. Penny comes from a strict religious background and her mother doesn’t allow her to listen to ‘coloured music’ but Penny and Tracy are typical teenagers who love music and dance in front of their TV. Annalise Liard-Bailey plays Penny and took the audience’s breath away with her beautiful voice and transformation throughout the show. Corny Collins is played by Jon Tsouras and he is great as that cheesy TV host in his glittery jackets. Jon really does a fantastic job as Corny is likeable as well as cheesy and actually has ideas to improve the show rather than leave it in its current 50’s style format. Corny’s show is produced by Velma Von-Tussle who likes the show just as it is and is not keen on integration. She also wants her daughter, Amber, to star in the show. Velma is played by Gina Murray and Gina has done a great job as it’s a difficult role to play because the character is hard to like with her narrow views and bigoted ideas. Amber is the all-round cheerleader type, with the perfect hair, teeth, weight and level of bitchiness to be the best dancer on the Corny Collins Show. She is played by Aimee Moore and delivers an effortless performance of Amber. If Amber is the cheerleader then her quarterback boyfriend is Link and he is played by Edward Chitticks who gives a great performance of a struggling singer and teenage heartthrob. It’s hard work to be this good looking!
Tracy gets in trouble in school and is thrown into detention where she meets the really cool kids. Seaweed is the star of the Corny Collins Show on ‘Negro day’. Once a month they allow ‘coloureds’ to have a slot on the show, but with no integration. Layton Williams plays Seaweed and wow can he sing and dance. If Layton is offering dance lessons, I’m signing up! Layton is the best male dancer I have ever seen and he alone is worth the ticket price! I wanted to get up and dance with him. Seaweed’s mother is Motormouth Maybelle and is played by Brenda Edwards. Brenda gives a faultless performance and her voice is exquisite. She really took my breath away during I know where I’ve been. Truly fabulous.
All the songs have been specially written for the stage show so don’t expect the same songs as in the films. There are some fantastic numbers including, a bluesy The Big Doll’s House, The Nicest Kids In Town, I Can Hear The Bells and of course, Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now, Welcome T The 60’s, Big, Blonde and Beautiful and of course the classic, You Can’t Stop The Beat. All the songs have an energy and vibe that makes the show a real feel-good show. No one is being carried in this show - every single cast member was fantastic and work as a team to give the show a cohesive energy. The dancers absolutely take your breath away with some of their moves. It is some of the best choreography you will ever see on stage!
The moral of this show is dream big and make it happen. Tracy wants integration and with help from her friends she has a plan. If we were all that fearless the world would be a better place. This fantastic show is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 14 April. Book a ticket now…why wouldn’t you?!!