When the curtain came up on the opening night of Hairspray UK Tour at the Regent Theatre in Hanley to Tracy Tumblad’s (Freya Sutton) performing the opening number Good Morning Baltimore, I was sure I was the only person in the auditorium who had no clue what this, quite frankly, infamous story was all about. Of course, I knew about John Travolta in a wig and it’s cult status, but that’s where the knowledge stopped.
Hairspray, I know. VO5, Elnett even Silvikrin with it’s grandma-esque smell which makes your eyes water, but this was a whole other animal and at 29 years old and having never seen Hairspray, I was pleased.
I was pleased that I had no preconceptions of the storyline, the characters or the music so that I could watch through fresh eyes and thoroughly enjoy the show. And enjoy I did. From the opening scene where we’re introduced to Tracy and 1962 Baltimore, to the closing song You Can’t Stop the Beat which was met by a standing ovation, this show was funny, energetic, entertaining and charming in equal measures.
The literally larger than life Tracy has idolised Corny Collins (host of the popular Corny Collins Show) and has long dreamt of one day appearing on the show to dance alongside her idol and showcase her talent and the impressive heights of her hairstyle. Making it onto a show like the Corny Collins Show is difficult enough when you’re being auditioned by a former Miss Baltimore (Claire Sweeney), but when you’re plump/overweight/fat and the target of everyone’s ridicule it can seem like an impossibility.
Luckily for Tracy, she’s supported by her dad Wilbur who tells her to follow her dreams and despite the protests behind the scenes at The Corny Collins Show, Tracy becomes big for more than just her size… Baltimore LOVE her infectious energy and seeing someone “just like them” on the TV. When Tracy learns that her detention dance buddies are only invited to dance on the show once a month because of their race, she makes it her mission to bring equality to the show. Of course, no musical would be complete without a love story, so when budding musical heartthrob Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour) develops a soft spot for Tracy right under the perfect little nose of his current girlfriend, Tracy decides to on board Link for her mission but is he as determined to stand up for equality as she is?
Behind the glitz and the glamour and the big hair, this show has a plain and simple anti discrimination message. It highlights the segregation faced by the black community in Baltimore 1962 and uses music and a small town celebrity culture to unite rife racism.
As a plus size blogger, who over 50 years on from when this show is set, still faces the prejudices and judgemental opinions based on the size of a persons butt, this show certainly struck a sentimental chord with me. I just couldn’t help but be on Tracy’s side and pray for Link and the country to love her for being exactly who she was and not a dress size.
Stand out moments in the show would most definitely include the heart string tugging performance of I Can Hear the Bells along with X Factor alumni’s Brenda Edwards (Motormouth Maybelle) jaw dropping performance of I Know Where I’ve Been.
The little girl sat next to me who could have been no older than 7 sung along to the songs and ooh’d and gasp’d at parts in the show which lead me to believe that I been a fan of the film, this stage adaptation would have left me delighted. Even without the prior knowledge, I found myself up on my feet whooping and cheering for the final song with a smile plastered on my face.
Hairspray is now playing at The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent until Saturday 14th May. Tickets are available online or via the Box Office.