REVIEW: Hairspray The Broadway Musical, Guildhall, king’s Lynn Arts Centre

KLODS next production of Hairspray. Pictured members of the cast.
KLODS next production of Hairspray. Pictured members of the cast.

Hairspray The Broadway Musical burst on to the stage at the Guildhall on Wednesday night leaving everyone feeling good.

This was a tremendous ensemble effort by a hard-working cast who scarcely put a foot wrong all evening.

Funny, fast-paced and sharp, this was a musical that ticked all the boxes but took skill to deliver in an amateur setting.

This after all is a Broadway musical, as the title says, designed for a stage with rather more space than the King’s Lynn Arts Centre allows.

Never mind – where there is a willing cast and director there is a way.

The story is set in 1962 Baltimore and follows the adventures of the undeniably chubby Tracy Turnblad (Sarah-Jane Brennock), who along with her friend Penny (Sarah Cook) is a devotee of the local daily rock ’n’ roll show starring Corny Collins (Steve Bond).

Tracy would love more than anything to be a dancer on the show and get to meet her idol Link (Calum Westhead)... but as her mother Edna (Tom Clarke) tells husband Wilbur (Paul Howe) they don’t let people like them on TV.

That’s especially true when the Corny Collins Show is ruled by bigoted producer Velam Von Tussle (Hayley Dennis) and her toxic daughter Amber (Sophie Goodacre).

So can Tracy get on the show and not only that but make every day ‘Negro Day’ as she declared after meeting Seaweed(Ryan Chilvers) and the other talented black dancers who are kept firmly on the sidelines by Velma.

Hairspray was no doubt originally conceived by film director John Waters as something of a parody of dumb high school movies, which ignore the dark underbelly of American society with its racist prejudice.

But it is amazing how things can take on a life of their own and this is a great feelgood show.

It has a quirk. The writers do not allow any ‘blackface’ so black characters are performed as they are (ie white).

But the audience is forewarned and it does not really detract from the strength of the show.

Ryan Chilvers and Sarah Cook deserve paricular praise for Seaweed and Penny, Alex Raspberry steals the show as Motormouth Maybelle, Seaweed’s mum. Hayley Dennis is excellent as always in the Cruella de Vil role. Sophie Goodacre is a real star as Amber. But this show is all about Tracy and Sara-Jane Brennock, who remarkably also directed, is superb.

Hairspray is on tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm and with a 2.30pm Saturday matinee.

Mark Leslie