Review: Hairspray, Ipswich Regent, to November 28

Hairspray, at the Ipswich Regent. Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Hairspray, at the Ipswich Regent. Photo: Ellie Kurttz - Credit: Archant

Musical theatre fans have never had it so good. Over the next few months the Regent will play host to Sound of Music, Annie, Cats and Sister Act. Hairspray set the bar high.

Hairspray, at the Ipswich Regent. Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Hairspray, at the Ipswich Regent. Photo: Ellie Kurttz - Credit: Archant

Based on John Waters’ 1988 movie, the musical has won multiple Tony and Laurence Olivier Awards. It’s 1962 and larger than life Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad wants to change the world. Dancing her way onto national TV, she becomes a local star and uses her new-found fame to fight for racial integration and win the heart of the ever so dreamy Link Larkin.

It’s a great cast, many of whom are no stranger to London’s West End. It showed; with everybody from the lead actors to the ensemble delivering a polished performance that rightly had everybody on their feet come the barnstorming finale.

Freya Sutton is a great Tracy. Having played her during a previous UK and Ireland tour, she has a cracking voice and exudes Tracy’s trademark confidence. Benidorm star Tony Maudsley as her mum Edna is bags of fun. His chemistry with Blue Peter’s Peter Duncan as husband Wilbur really fizzes, especially during their vaudeville duet You’re Timeless to Me. X Factor’s Brenda Edwards, as Motormouth Maybelle, has a stunning voice; none more so than during the stirring, poignant I Know Where I’ve Been.

As good as everybody was, the scene stealer for me was Monique Young as Tracy’s best friend Penny Pingleton. She was hilarious. Dex Lee as Seaweed and Karis Jack as Little Inez deserve a special mention too.

There were plenty of fun-filled moments and exhausting just to watch musical numbers, primarily You Can’t Stop The Beat. The choreography and vocals were so tight throughout.

While fun, Hairspray tackles important themes including racism and body shaming head-on. It was great to see so many youngsters among the virtually sold-out audience. As Maudsley says: “I think it’s a really good show to bring your kids to. It also acts as a platform to start a conversation; to start teaching your kids about tolerance, acceptance and to celebrate who they are.”

You can read my full chat with him here. Find out more about the show by clicking here.

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It wasn’t perfect. We occasionally struggled to hear the vocals over the band. Personally, it niggles me during period pieces when stage-hands are on stage in contemporary clothing when the scene is still ongoing.

Wayne Savage

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