Hairspray | London Coliseum | Review
After more than one Covid related setbacks, the much awaited Hairspray revival reopened last night in the West End and proves to be the tonic we need after this abominable year. Playing until September at the beautiful London Coliseum (just off Trafalgar Square) the audience last night was euphoric to be in a ‘filled to capacity’ theatre once again, experiencing live entertainment at its best.
With the backdrop being the 1960s changing political and racial landscape, Hairspray tells the heartwarming story of Tracy Turnblad, a typical plus-sized American teenager with big hair and even bigger dreams. Inspiring to become a dancer on TVs Corny Collins show, Tracy and her friends realise that talent and boundless enthusiasm isn’t as important as looks and the colour of your skin and things need to change.
The original story was written in 1988 and the musical version opened in 2002, Hairspray deals heavily with the theme of segregation and racial inequality making it as relevant now as ever. Only last year the Black Lives Matters protests marched right past the Coliseum’s doors is a stark reminder that 60 years later than when the story is set, there is still so much to do.
Lizzie Bea playing Tracy is a star in the making with crisp vocals and great dance moves, her infectious smile and charismatic charm makes her the perfect lead. Michael Ball reprises the role of Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s plus-sized Mum who takes in neighbours laundry instead of persuing her dream to make clothes, she lacks in self-confidence despite the obvious love from her adoring family. Ball starred as Edna in the original West End production in 2007 and it is clear to see how he revels in the role. Edna’s doting husband Wilbur is this time, played by Les Dennis whose softer mannerisms perfectly complement Ball’s exuberance.
A gargantuan mention must go to Marisha Wallace playing Motormouth Maybelle whose spinetingling rendition of the anthem ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ richly deserved its mid-show standing ovation.
They are supported by a strong young cast who despite being so squeaky at times so that words were hard to make out, were a joy to watch. Their energy and warmth was wonderfully contagious.
The cast are clearly having the time of their lives, and enjoying the opportunity to perform again in a fabulously fantastic show. Hairspray is just the production that everyone needs to lift their mood, may it continue to bring joy to 1000s of people over the next few months without anymore interruption.
Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill