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Hairspray The Musical

Hairspray The Musical

The international musical phenomenon Hairspray returns to a venue near you this year! After breaking box office records and delighting audiences in the West-End, on Broadway and on the big screen since 1988, this smash hit musical-comedy has quite the legacy, and now we’re heading back out on tour!

Welcome to the 60s, where everyone’s grooving to a brand-new sound! Enter our vivacious heroine Tracy Turnblad, who has big hair, a big heart, and big dreams to dance her way onto national TV, and into the heart of teen idol Link Larkin. When Tracy becomes a local star, she is able to use her newfound fame to fight for liberation, tolerance, and interracial unity in Baltimore. But can she win equality – and Link’s heart – without denting her ’do?

This fun-filled, feel good show is bursting with show-stopping numbers, dazzling costumes, and dizzying dance-routines that you can’t help but shimmy too! Featuring some of musical theatre’s biggest and best hit songs, including Welcome To The 60s, You Can’t Stop The Beat, Good Morning Baltimore and so many more, Hairspray is the hilarious, joyous, and uplifting musical that everyone needs right now!

Book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan; Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.

Please note: under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult

Our review on Hairspray The Musical

Hairspray - Palace Theatre, Manchester - Thursday 18th July 2024 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

Manchester is known for its vibrancy, its pulsing energy and heart, so when Hairspray comes to town, you know that nothing is gonna stop that beat!  I may have already seen this musical a few times, but that is testament to its infectious tunes, its ability to whip you up into a frenzied fizz higher than Tracy Turnblad’s beehive, and its powerful messages of equality, tolerance, and acceptance.  It will make you feel all the feels, shimmy your socks off, and bouffant your barnet into next Tuesday!  In short, it is a guaranteed cracking night out and you’ll leave feeling like you have done an epic workout without ever lifting a finger, such is energy of the show.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Hairspray has a life force of its own with a firm grip of its ever-expanding fanbase.

As multi coloured spotlights flood the theatre, and the music rings out, a smile instantly splashes across my face, and we are backcombed into 1960’s Baltimore, where Tracy Turnblad is just waking up.  She introduces us to her world through the brilliant opener Good Morning Baltimore, a world that revolves around dance and The Corny Collins Show.  She’d also quite like to date the shows heart throb Link Larkin too, but as Motormouth Maybelle would say, “she meets a whole lot of ugly from a never ending parade of stupid,” and so the road ahead isn’t as simple as it should be.  Tracy keeps hearing the word no.  No, she can’t dance on The Corny Collins show because of her weight.  No, she can’t dance on the show with her friends Seaweed and Little Inez because she is white and they are black.  Tracy has had enough and sets off a chain of events that alter the course of history.  With the support of her parents, best friend Penny, her new friends Seaweed and his family, and boyfriend Link (of course she gets the guy!  It’s a musical!), Tracy starts a peaceful protest to stand up for what she believes is right and to end segregation.  Ok, so it lands her in prison, but do we really think Tracy won’t attempt a jail break and use a giant can of Hairspray as a diversion technique?!  Tracy has a message and she won’t stop until she has twisted, mash potato-ed, and ponied it into the hearts and minds of everyone.  

may be full of feel good energy and sensational songs, but it is also beautifully centred around hard hitting topics, such as racism, sexism, body image, peer pressure, self-esteem, and equality.  These themes and messages are interwoven with the story of a teenager who is just trying to make sense of the world, and so it has a unique charm as that gentle innocence has live side by side with an ugly reality.  This allows for Tracy to be jumping up and down in front of the TV with unfiltered youthful excitement one moment as her crush appears on her favourite show, being stuck in detention the next for wearing her hair too high and taking down television executives the next for their outdated racist ways.  It shows us how a vision of the future should always include the voices of that future, todays youth. 

The set by Takis is minimal, extremely well thought out and perfectly effective, allowing incredible space for the wonderful dance routines, choreographed by Drew McOnie.  One of my favourite moments fell during I know Where I’ve Been.  As the songs message climaxed, it was echoed and paid a respectful tribute to those inspirational and heroic individuals who have refused to be silenced.  Their names and images were montaged on the large projected scenery behind, culminating in Martin Luther King Jr.  It was poignant and powerful.  Combined with the flawless and emotive vocals of Michelle Ndegwa as Motormouth Maybelle (professional soul & gospel singer with the likes of Gregory Porter, Gorillaz, Billy Porter) who moved me to tears, this was a moment that brought the house down.  But back to the set.  Simple furniture pieces were brought on to represent the various locations, whether it be the clever way the walls opened up to wheel on a platformed house from both sides of the stage for Tracy and Penny, Maybelle’s endless tables of records and food, or jail bars for the prison scene.  The dance routines were a glorious mix of musical theatre with 60’s classic dance moves thrown in, as well as some unique ones especially for the show!  And trust me, by the end, you will be up on your feet, busting your own moves and very possibly joining the cast in theirs as we all tried to get our groove on to the motion in the ocean and the sun in the sky!

Brenda Edwards
and Paul Kerryson have co-directed this cast with their own extra tweaks and nuances that die hard fans will live for.  A cheeky charm is sprinkled throughout and that shiny perfection of the all American model citizen is ramped up to self-mocking and doused with an additional layer of cheesiness.  The irony at play here is brilliantly funny and masterful at the same time.  Alexandra Emmerson-Kirby as Tracy Turnblad (professional debut!) is relentless with her energy and talent throughout.  Her attention to detail and story telling with her face alone is absolutely spot on, and when she lets rip with that voice, it is nothing but crowd pleasing!  It was a really great comedic performance as was Neil Hurst as Edna Turnblad (Full Monty, Early Doors Live, Evita).  This was such a flawless performance, from the vocal control – not only with the sensational singing, but with the speaking range used to great comedic effect throughout.  Some people just have that inexplicable likeability, and you can’t stop smiling when they perform.  Neil Hurst is one of those people.  His rendition of Timeless To Me with the expertise and comic genius of Dermot Canavan as Wilbur (Elf, Fiddler On The Roof) brought the house down, and they truly had the audience in the palm of their hands.

Solomon Davy
(Clueless, Grease) smashed it as Link, singing, dancing, and charming his way into Tracys world with his practised ease, yet balancing that out with a person who underneath is capable of change and progress.  Gina Murray as Velma Von Tussle (Chicago, Full Monty, Mamma Mia) and Allana Taylor as Amber (Grease) gave us mother and daughter mean girls to a tee!  The nastiness was eased off by their characters becoming a focal point of mockery with high pitched voices and exaggerated humour.  Freya McMahon as Penny (professional debut!) and Reece Richards as Seaweed (Motown, Sex Education) were a fabulous team, and their continual reactions were brilliant to watch.  Richards dancing was brilliant (as was Katlo as Little Inez (High Society, Annie Get Your Gun) and McMahons comedy timing was fabulous.  Declan Egan as Corny Collins (Jersey Boys, Rocky Horror) had such a strong vocal and again ramped up the cheese factor to the perfect levels for his character, expertly switching them off when he was no longer on camera and trying to get his views across.  The entire cast were alive with everything that Hairspray should be and the joy they brought is beyond words.

The songs of Hairspray are musical theatre classics for a reason.  There quite literally isn’t a bad one!  It cleverly combines that musical theatre vibe with a sixties swagger, an unapologetic youthful energy, whilst still offering up love, laughter, and the most soulful and heart wrenching moments to boot!  You Can’t Stop The Beat, Welcome To The Sixties, Mamma I’m A Big Girl Now, Run And Tell That, honestly we all know I could go on and on with this song list and still be throwing out belters till the end of the review!  It just ticks every box, right down to the comedy moments of Timeless To Me, which even comes with its own encore prepared!  I mean that’s swag!  If you haven’t yet seen Hairspray, I implore you to go along because it is one of the best shows that musical theatre has to offer.  It not only has a firm fan base, but such is the love for the show that it is known for creating its own musical family, with cast such as Michael Ball previously moving over to the creative side, and the same with tonights co-director Brenda Edwards, who used to be Maybelle!  Such is the love for the show, they just don’t want to leave!  The shows stories and themes are as relevant today as ever, and the beauty is that they connect us all in our own ways with our own versions of life.  It is a vibrant, vivacious and victorious show that will keep us dancing in the aisles for ever!  So dig out your platforms, dust off those flares and those minis, and spritz your way to The Palace Theatre for the treat of the summer! 



Our review on Hairspray The Musical

Hairspray - Palace Theatre, Manchester - Thursday 18th July 2024 by Heather Darbyshire

Our Rating


Manchester, Hairspray is back in town! This show-stopper musical is back, and it is must-see. Everyone at the theatre was buzzing with excitement and couldn’t wait for the new rendition of this theatre classic. Personally, I have never seen Hairspray, but everyone who has only ever comes out saying wonderful things. Safe to say, I was expecting big, bold, and beautiful and I got all that and more.


Tracy Turnblad is a benevolent, plentiful High School Girl, who ends up auditioning for her favourite TV dance show The Corny Collins show after one of the girls has to drop out. At the audition she meets many members of the cast including her long-time crush (Link Larkin) and his girlfriend/Tracy’s mortal enemy (Amber Von Tussle). Unsurprisingly, she gets rejected by the judgemental Velma Von Tussle – Amber’s mother - due to her weight and that same day gets put into a detention. In detention she meets Seaweed, a dancer who is willing to teach Tracy some of his dance moves, as due to segregation in Baltimore they had never met. After refining her new dance skills, she manages to get an opportunity to dance on The Corny Collins show, where she amazes Corny Collins so much, he gives her the position right on the spot. Tracy become the new star of the show, much to Amber’s dismay, gaining more and more votes each week. However, Tracy quickly becomes tired of race discrimination in Baltimore, believing that no matter what you look like everyone should be treated as equals. Will Tracy be able to convince the town that all people deserve equal treatment, or will they be stuck in a land of discrimination and hatred?


I was immediately taken by Takis’ amazing set and costume design. Each outfit was bursting with vibrant colour, prepared to dance to the magnificent routines choreographed by Drew McOnie. One stands out routine must be (The Legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs. Gina Murray (Chicago, MAMMA MIA!) being lifted in the air whilst the rest of the Corny Collins kids encircles her, whilst she is threatening Tracy to leave the auditions. It was outstanding! Phillip Gladwell’s lighting design just enhanced the experience even more. The deep reds for Velma, the bright multicolour for The Corny Collins Show, the bright white light of the prison institution. As an audience member you truly felt as if you were in Hairspray yourself. Furthermore, Takis’ use of moving slats was not only practical, but also allowed for the set to stay new and intriguing for every routine performed.


Now moving onto the incredible cast. Alexandra Emmerson- Kirby as Tracy Turnblad (professional debut!) was perfect casting by The Grindrod Burton Associates. Her playful energy lasted from beginning to end, always keeping the show entertaining and the audience on their toes. As well as her amazing acting Emmerson- Kirby’s voice was just breath-taking. Her ability to sing a mixture of slow songs like I Can Hear the Bells and upbeat bangers like You Can’t Stop the Beat, was just mind-blowing. Additionally, her partnership with Solomon Davy (Grease, Clueless the Musical) was hilarious! The mix of Link’s utter confusion and Tracy’s undying love to him was such a flawless combination, you couldn’t help but laugh out loud as the absurdity of it all. And they weren’t the only dynamic duo. Freya McMahon as Penny Pingleton  (professional debut!) with Reece Richards as Seaweed J. Stubbs (Motown, 2022 Uk Hairspray Tour) were absolutely electric, their chemistry off the charts.  Also, there was Neil Hurst as Edna Turnblad (Evita, Jungle Book the Musical, Me and My Girl) with Dermot Canavan as Wilbur Turnblad (West Side Story, Oklahoma, Peter Pan) singing (You’re) Timeless to Me was one of the highlights of my evening. The comedic timing of Neil Hurst throughout the whole performance, was just outstanding!


Hairspray always has been and always will be an amazing musical, but this cast takes the cake for one of the best theatre performances I have seen in a long time! The cast and crew all worked together to create an astounding show, every element was clearly made and designed with much thought in mind and all the actors understand the true meaning behind what they are saying. This show was fabulous, and we are all so very lucky that this suburb story isn’t limited to only Manchester. I implore you to free up one day in your diary, and brighten it up with this show, as you are for sure going to walk about smiling ear to ear. Hairspray is an amazing story and has been done just by this astonishing cast, so Manchester, run to the palace theatre right now to watch the show of a lifetime!






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