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Review Hairspray The Musical Palace Theatre Manchester

The cast of Hairspray the musical
26 Oct 2021

Hairspray The Musical has arrived at The Palace Theatre Manchester and we thought here in our review. 

The 1960’s inspired, cult classic musical, Hairspray, spritzed its way into town as part of its nationwide tour last night. We sent one of our Mum On The Go reviewers Amy to the press night and you can discover what they thought below.

Review Hairspray The Musical Palace Theatre Manchester

We teased our beehives to impressive heights and headed on down to The Palace Theatre to experience what was promised to be ‘an irresistible, feel-good show.’ 

The production, is based on the 1988 John Walter’s musical starring Ricky Lake and Divine, and is set in 1960’s Baltimore. We are introduced straight away to the show’s central character- Tracy Turnblad- played delightfully by newcomer, Katie Brace.

Tracy is described as, ’a big girl, with big hair and an even bigger heart.’ She is a feisty, exuberant teen, who just wants to make the world a better place, whilst marrying the love of her life – teen dreamboat Link Larkin (Ross Clifton) and dancing on her favourite TV show.

Surely, that isn’t too much to ask. In reality, Tracy spends most days in detention for ‘ratting her hair’ and the closest she comes to Link, is drooling over him as she watches The Corny Collins show. Brace’s portrayal of the character had us smiling from ear to ear and her vocals were bold and uplifting. 

Any fans of the original movie will be familiar with Divine’s iconic portrayal of Edna Turnbland- Tracy’s agoraphobic, laundress mother who has unfulfilled dreams of her own. This production offers up something new and refreshing.

Alex Bourne brings a thoughtful restraint to the role, which is perfectly balanced by comedy legend Norman Pace- who plays Edna’s aspirational, joke shop owning husband Wilbur. The couple’s duet, ‘timeless to me,’ had an almost panto feel, which delighted old and young audience members alike and received a standing ovation.

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It is Tracy’s father who encourages her to audition for The Corny Collins show when a much-converted spot becomes available. Whilst her mother fears, she will be ridiculed saying, ‘people like us only get put on TV to be laughed at.’

Hairspray is a show, which addresses some heavyweight issues like racism, sexism and body image in a perky package packed with punchy humour and catchy tunes.

Velma Von Tussle (Rebecca Thornhill) is the perfect antagonist- as producer of the Corny Collins show, she is hell-bent on preventing anyone who is different to her from participating. Velma’s opinions and prejudices play out in the character of her daughter, Amber, played by Jessica Croll, who is adamant that Tracy will not get her hands on her man (Link) or the much converted Miss Teenage Hairspray award.

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Akeem Ellis-Hyman was delightful to watch as Seaweed, a friend, who Tracy soon discovers is in detention just as much as she is. Seaweed introduces Tracy to some awesome dance moves, new friends and his formidable record store- owning, mother Motormouth Mabybelle. Played by X factor semi-finalist and Loose Women regular, Brenda Edwards, it is Maybelle’s heartfelt, gospel inspired song, ‘I Know Where I’ve Been,’ speaking about the fight for racial equality and integration, which brings the audience to their feet.

Together with her new friends and her family, Tracy fights to break down barriers and ensure that the Corny Collins show truly reflects everyone that watches it. The closing number ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat,’ is an uplifting anthem about the endurance of human spirit and speaks to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. The song includes the lyric, ’ can try to stop my dancin’ feet, but I just cannot stand still.’ By the end of the show, it was clear to see that no one could keep their feet still- with everyone up dancing to the beat. 

We thoroughly enjoyed this show, leaving the theatre with huge smiles on our faces. Hairspray more than lived up to its own hype. It was indeed an irresistible, feel-good show! 

Hairspray The Musical is a fantastic family-friendly show and is recommended for anyone 8+. It will be showing at The Palace Theatre from 25th-30th October and 8th- 13th November and you can purchase tickets here.


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