Hairspray at Bristol Hippodrome

The film of Hairspray was a favourite when I was younger, and although I’d forgotten a lot of what happened in it I knew that the theatre version of it was going to be brash and cheerful. Oh and it was – it was cheesy with extra cheese, sprinkles on top and a good dose of wholesomeness thrown in. I love cheesy cheerful colourful musicals, but the last couple I’ve been too have left a bitter taste. They might have been bright and glitzy, beautifully performed and ‘appropriate for their time’ but the attitudes towards women, domestic violence, slavery and the like were uncomfortable to say the least. There is none of that with Hairspray; it is a glorious celebration of equality, of the fight for integration rather than segregation of black people in 1960’s America and the ability of all shapes, sizes and ages of people to be beautiful and worthy of love.

I took a nihilistic black metal fan along as my companion as I frequently do, knowing how much she has to say about negative stereotypes, casual racism and misogyny in musicals. It’s always entertaining to hear her take on things. She didn’t disappoint, having a mumble about how it was all about the beauty of youth and the sidelining of older people during the interval although she phrased it far more eloquently. So I was particularly pleased to then see her sit through the wonderful ‘You’re Timeless To Me’, a love song between two mature people with bodies best described as well-lived-in. I caught her tapping her feet more than once during the evening.

I can’t fault anything about this production. I was surprised to find that Rebecca Mendoza as Tracy Turnblad is a recent graduate in her first professional role because she was fantastic, it was impossible not to like her portrayal of the character with her charm and bravado and naivety. Norman Pace and Matt Rixon as Wilbur and Edna were funny and heartwarming and got some of the best laughs of the night. Brenda Edwards (Motormouth Maybelle) led ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ with an absolute belter of a voice and the combined efforts of the whole cast singing in this sent shivers down my spine. Hers wasn’t the only amazing voice, and the dancing was fantastic too. As were the costumes, which as you’d expect from Hairspray were sparkling and bright and just slightly over the top. And the music, played by a band that we could see at the back of the stage in some scenes. It was all great.

You might have already gathered that I’m going to say that I loved this and I’d definitely recommend it as one to see.


Hairspray runs at Bristol Hippodrome until 10th March


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