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Review: Hairspray at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham



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Musical lovers welcomed the new girl in town at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal on Monday for the opening night of Hairspray The Musical.

A packed audience was taken back to the swingin’ 60s with two delightful hours of music, dance, and laughter, reminiscent of the 1988 hit film by John Waters.

Directed by Paul Kerryson, the performance starred television presenter Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle, Newark’s Norman Pace as Wulbur Turnblad and West End leading man Alex Bourne as Edna Turnblad.

Katie Brace as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray The Musical. Credit: Mark Senior (52168712)
Katie Brace as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray The Musical. Credit: Mark Senior (52168712)

As the curtains rose on the year 1962, Katie Brace, as Tracy Turnblad, set the tone for the evening with a joyful rendition of Good Morning Baltimore.

This was her professional debut, however, Brace’s excellent voice and characterisation throughout meant the audience were none the wiser.

From the beginning of the performance, it was clear that this was to be a story about love, segregation and the fight for equality in a politically turbulent era, with Drew McOnie’s choreography physically separating black and white dancers until the latter half of the second act.

Ross Clifton (centre left) as Link Larkin, Katie Brace (centre) as Tracy Turnblad and Akeem Ellis-Hyman (centre right) as Seaweed in Hairspray The Musical. Credit: Mark Senior (52168709)
Ross Clifton (centre left) as Link Larkin, Katie Brace (centre) as Tracy Turnblad and Akeem Ellis-Hyman (centre right) as Seaweed in Hairspray The Musical. Credit: Mark Senior (52168709)

These were themes that ran through to the end of the musical, resulting in a dramatic climax of good over evil where both races finally joined together in celebration.

The connection between Tracy and Link Larkin (Ross Clifton) also formed a large part of the storyline, with numbers such as I Can Hear The Bells and Without Love showcasing the growth of their relationship as they overcame societal constructs.

Wilbur and Edna Turnblad provided the more comedic moments with their one-liners and physical comedy leaving the audience in stitches on several occasions. However, Kerryson did well to keep the endearing nature of their relationship intact during You’re Timeless To Me.

Bernadette Bangura, Natalia Brown and Elliotte Williams N'Dure as The Dynamites. Image credit: Mark Senior (52168700)
Bernadette Bangura, Natalia Brown and Elliotte Williams N'Dure as The Dynamites. Image credit: Mark Senior (52168700)

Possibly the biggest reaction of the night went to Brenda Edwards, as Motormouth Maybelle, with her emotional performances of Big, Blonde And Beautiful and I Know Where I’ve Been.

The stellar voices of the Dynamites (Bernadette Bangura, Natalia Brown and Elliotte Williams N’Dure) and Little Inez (Charlotte St Croix) should also be noted.

The show ended with a company performance of the iconic number, You Can’t Stop The Beat, and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray The Musical. Credit: Mark Senior (52168706)
Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray The Musical. Credit: Mark Senior (52168706)

It was the ultimate feel-good night out, but to see the joy on the faces of the cast and the audience alike was perhaps the best part of all. — JG



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