hairspray cast


Birmingham Hippodrome


The curtain rises and we find ourselves in the bedroom of teenager Tracy Turnblad: the bubbly, dorky, dance-crazed protagonist.

Katie Brace makes an excellent professional debut, with an endless amount of energy as she leads us through the streets of Baltimore – and we are with her all the way.

At home we’re introduced to the real power couple of the show Edna and Wilbur Turnblad. Sticking to the show’s original form, Edna is played as a pantomime dame, and Alex Bourne is a force not to be reckoned with. After an inhibited first half, he finds his feet firmly into those high heels of comedy and earns every laugh he gets.

Meanwhile, Norman Pace (yes, of Hale & Pace) gives us a loveable, cheeky, Wilbur. His roots in comedy came well into fruition during an intimate number, when both he and Bourne began to titter. But keeping in style of the show, Pace gets the audience onside, and we don’t even mind that even they’re hysterical!

Then there’s Tracy’s best friend Penny Pringleton, who presumably she met on the first day of pre-school and never managed to shake. Rebecca Jayne-Davies plays Penny as a delightfully dim girl, but so comedically that she is never just the downtrodden sidekick.

But Tracy’s true calling is to appear on her favourite TV show, The Corny Collins Show which is the go-to place to learn the trendiest dances, fashions, and hairdos; sponsored of course by Ultra Clutch Hairspray. Richard Meek is the show’s namesake host and toes the line between charming and sleazy delicately, and you’re never sure whether he’s with the youngsters or the management. 


Katie Brace bedding in on her debut as Tracy

Speaking of the management, Rebecca Thornhill is a demanding presence as the TV show’s racist producer, Velma Von Tussle. She is positively wicked and evil, as she uses everything in her power to keep Negro Day – the day when black people can share their music – to just a day. And heaven forbid that her precious daughter, Amber (Jessica Croll), should not win the Miss Teenage Hairspray 1962 competition! Croll gives us a downright diva, who you just love to loath, as she picks and points at anybody who doesn’t resemble a barbie doll.

Ross Clifton is the show’s heartthrob, Link Larkin, spending most of his time as the rope in Tracy and Amber’s tug-of-war. Although suave and dashing, he too is trapped by his egotistical desires and aspirations of fame. He knows to keep both girls sweet, right until the very end, but sadly his character never seems torn.

As Tracy finds herself juggling her overnight fame with her school life, she once again lands herself in detention, where she is introduced to Seaweed who just happens to be the son of Negro Day’s hostess, Motormouth Maybelle. The loveable Seaweed, played modestly by Akeem Ellis-Hyman, teaches Tracy a whole range of new dance moves, as well as the tribulations of the era’s racist attitudes, which Tracy soon decides to combat.

Brenda Edwards is a Motormouth Maybelle who is larger than life, and a voice that is even more-so. As well as belting out those ballads, Edwards’ Maybelle never plays the victim, and knows exactly what she’s worth. Her motivation is inspirational, and her relentlessness can teach us all a few things even today. We are also introduced to her young daughter, Little Inez, played with such innocence and occasional sass by Charlotte St Croix.


Brenda Edwards has come a long way since the 2005 X-Facor semi and is reprising her role as Motormouth Maybelle

Then we have Paul Hutton, and Ceris Hine, who multirole as male and female authority figures respectively. It is Hine who steals the show, with every one of her characters is like a cartoon brought to life. You just can’t help but watch her when she’s on stage.

The musical numbers are punctuated with an incredible ensemble of dancers, who fill the space with excellent choreography (Drew McOnie) which has spontaneous hallmarks of musical land. They are led by the band, (musical director Ben Atkinson) who at the very back of the stage occasionally make an appearance when it suits the television pieces.

The set (Takis) is simplistic, yet you always know where you are, and the space is occupied with real consideration. A screen is flown in and out, sometimes to separate the back of the stage from the action, and at other times to display those bright neon colours and 60's patterns that give the production its signature cheese.

Even though the show stumbled at the start with a lower energy, and comedic moments seemed underplayed, by the end of the night there wasn’t a head not bobbing, nor a foot not tapping, and many roaring laughs were had. Directed by Paul Kerryson, Hairspray fills the Hippodrome with smiles to 02-10-21

Richard Scott


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