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Hairspray the Musical

by Emily Healey-Lynham

The iconic show Hairspray based in 1960’s Baltimore, with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, proves itself once again as the musical we all need in these times. The big draw of this revival at The Coliseum is Michael Ball reprising his Olivier-winning turn as Edna Turnblad, laundress mother of the dance-crazy Tracy.

Michael Ball’s mischievous Edna Turnblad is reminiscent of a pantomime dame, having played the role before Michael still looks like he is having a Ball with the show!  Les Dennis plays long suffering husband Wilbur and the pairing works well, the ad libs during their number “(You’re) Timeless to Me” making the whole audience cry with laughter!

Sixteen-year-old Tracy Turnblad has the desire to dance on The Corny Collins Show, Tracy is an underdog, the kind of girl that doesn’t necessarily fit into the sparkly shiny world of television.  But this musical about hopes and dreams and sees the heroine Tracy land a spot on the dance show and with it she brings the fight to end racial segregation all while landing the boy of her dreams, Link Larkin.  Lizzie Bea makes her debut as a lead in the West End, she plays the part of Tracy Turnblad to pure perfection, aside from stunning vocals, Bea’s energy lights up the stage and the demanding role seems like a breeze for this talented performer, definitely one to watch.

Jonny Amies (also making his West End debut) is the smooth and mini-Elvis like Link, while the pairing of adept physical comedian Mari McGinlay (Penny) and exciting dancer Ashley Samuels (Seaweed) works extremely well.  The musical trio the Dynamites (Holly Liburd, Mireia Mambo, Robyn Rose) have phenomenal voices and moves. Rita Simons raises glamorous nastiness to an art form as the villain, bigoted TV producer Velma Von Tussle and her mean girl daughter Amber (Georgia Anderson).  Michael Vinsen as Corny Collins lives up to his name with shiny trousers and cheesy lines!  There’s also a scene-stealing turn by Kimani Arthur as Little Inez. But as far as the singing goes, Marisha Wallace (Dreamgirls, Waitress) steals the show as the indomitable Motormouth Maybelle. The goosebump-inducing song “I Know Where I’ve Been”, is show-stopping and a treat for your ears, if the musical ended there it would still be worth its ticket price!

Jack O’Brien directs with gusto and Jerry Mitchell’s zestful choreography makes you want to get on your feet and join in with the fast-paced routines. Gorgeous costume and wig creations of William Ivey Long and Richard Mawbey respectively add colour and volume to the stage.

The sublime cast of the superb Hairspray received a rapturous standing ovation as they launched into the joyful finale of this feel-good show, the upbeat anthem “You Can’t Stop The Beat” and this show will keep the beat going till September 29th 2021.

For more info and to book see online.


  • Emily Healey-Lynham

    Emily has been involved in the media industry for well over 10 years from working on film sets to journalism and PR. Emily is a strategic, energetic Editor who has been with Bespoke since the start heading up the Culture department. Being a fan of all art forms from the theatre to films, literature to exhibitions Emily is usually found in the stalls of a theatre telling you where the cast have been seen before without looking in the programme or fact finding in an art gallery, failing that she will be sipping champagne at the bar regaling stories of "glory days" of the West End!

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