Theatre: Hairspray



Tuesday evening I found myself at the Shaftesbury theatre watching what has to be the most entertaining new show on the west end by a long shot: Hairspray (well I don't plan to see Bad Girls the musical but anyway). It is still only in its second week of previews but it there is so much energy and life on stage it was pretty overwhelming to the senses. Then again it is so well written, staged danced and acted and features some very lovable characters that it is hard not to like it, even if you think at times it gets a bit cheesy (or long)...

Michael Ball and Mel Smith receive top billing for the show. I hadn't seen Ball in anything before, and it didn't help that every musical theatre afficianado I knew kept telling me what an asshole he was. Maybe they had heard one too many renditions of "Love changes everything", but I figured anyone who gave such entertaining interviews to the Evening Standard can't be all that bad. And as for his peformance as Edna Turnblad, it was great. His duet with Mel Smith stopped the show in the second act.

Stars aside, the whole cast was a knockout. Ben James-Ellis who was a finalist in the reality tv show Any Dream Will Do must have been happy he didn't win since he got to play the lead in a real musical. Leanne Jones as Tracy Turnblad was great, Johnnie Fiori as Motormouth Maybelle stopped the show with "I know where I've been" and Adrian Hansel as Seaweed could sing over any loud noise generated in the pit...

All that heat generated on stage was almost enough to distract the rear stalls audience (where I was sitting) from the fact that there was no air in the theatre. Several of us ran gasping for the fire exits at intermission. Well the Shaftesbury probably isn't used to being home to a hit show that filled every seat... I suspect this show will be big and around for a long time, so here's hoping it will pay for an upgrade to the air con...

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