Hairspray at Curve – review

Damian Williams (Edna Turnblad) Curve Hairspray credit Pamlea RaithThis review first appeared in What’s Peen Seen 6 March 2014

Another stylish show from director Paul Kerryson as Hairspray opens at Curve – it’s big, blousy with a beautiful message that brought the audience to its feet.

Although still a relatively young musical – it only opened on Broadway in 2002, and inspired by John Waters’ 1988 film – Hairspray has won many Tony and Olivier awards, its popularity no doubt thanks to the infectious music and sharp lyrics by Mark Shaiman and Scott Whittman, and witty dialogue.

Set in Baltimore in 1962, the segregation of black people and white people forms the unattractive roots of this musical. Hairspray follows the story of Tracy Turnblad, tubby teen rebel and ‘a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart’; she just wants everyone to dance together. Tracy is played with twinkly charm by Rebecca Craven and you immediately warm to her spirit as she tries to overcome the bigoted Von Tussles and achieve her dreams, including finding love with slinky Link Larkin.

Damien Williams as Tracy’s mum, Edna Turnblad almost steals the show, sporting a nice range in house coats and comic timing. Williams has just finished playing Tommy Cooper in a touring production and there is definitely a Cooper-esque quality to this Mrs Turnblad, along with a voice coated with enough gravel to make Barry White proud.

Curve Hairspray credit Pamela Raith 2The whole cast are excellent and cope admirably with Lee Proud’s complex and energetic choreography. However, special mention to Claudia Kariuki as Motormouth Maybelle with a stunning vocal performance of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’, poignantly framed by stills of Martin Luther King. Sophie-Louise Dann is satisfyingly evil as Velma Von Tussle and Tyrone Huntley is one cool Seaweed (and a dead ringer for Don Cheadle).

Paul Moore’s set design has made good use of Curve’s large stage: a Baltimore street, a record store, a prison and most effectively, the set of The Corny Collins Show. The combination of orchestra on a raised platform, authentic TV images and large cameras is evocative of many teen music shows from the past. Add to this Siobhan Boyd’s fun costumes and you have all the ingredients for a winning show.

Hairspray is all about outsiders beating the system and bringing everyone together, a real feel good, family show. It has plenty of shine, body and colour and could well be this year’s crowning glory for Curve.

Hairspray is at Curve until 5 April

Images by Pamela Raith

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