Touring – reviewed at Edinburgh Playhouse
Guest reviewer: Sarah Moyes
It’s time to grab a giant can of Hairspray and get your big hair ready to be transported back to the swinging 60s as the smash hit musical returns to the Playhouse in Edinburgh this week.
Set in Baltimore in 1962, Hairspray tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a loveable high school student who is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto a national television show on The Corny Collins Show. And once she does become a local star on, she’s an unstoppable force as she fights against inequality and for racial integration so every day can be Negro Day.
Having just graduated last year, Rebecca Mendoza makes her professional debut as Tracy in a role that almost seems like it was written for her. It’s an iconic part and Mendoza certainly grabs this opportunity with both hands, commanding the stage from the very start of the show as she belts ‘Good Morning Baltimore’. From there, she’s fun and feisty throughout, showing girls everywhere that they should be standing up for what they believe in.
The role of Tracy’s mum Edna Turnblad is always played by a man and in this current production, it’s Matt Rixon who steps into Edna’s big dress and heels, while Norman Pace plays Wilbur Turnblad. The pair work perfectly together, and their opening duet ‘You’re Timeless To Me’ brings the loudest cheers of the night. It’s a beautifully endearing moment, even though they are unable to remain serious, bursting into laughter on several occasions throughout the song.
Former X Factor star Brenda Edwards plays Motormouth Maybelle, bringing the house down with her powerhouse of a voice on ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’, while Gina Murray and Aimee Moore give strong performances as the obnoxious mother and daughter, Velma and Amber Von Tussle, fighting for Amber to be the star of the show.
The staging for this touring production is very simple, but Drew McOnie’s fun choreography, coupled with brightly coloured costumes, makes the musical just leap off the stage. The whole ensemble can really dance, but all eyes are on Layton Williams in the role of Seaweed, every time he’s on stage. His onstage girlfriend and Tracy’s best friend Penny Pingleton played by Annalise Liard-Bailey is another cast member who has just recently graduated, but judging by tonight’s performance this won’t be the last we see of her.
Brenda Edwards and Rebecca Mendoza with the Hairspray ensemble. Pic Darren Bell
The show is packed with much loved musical theatre songs from Welcome To The 60s to Mama, I’m A Big Girl Now but the best is definitely saved until last as the cast put on their sequins and gets the whole audience dancing in their seats for You Can’t Stop The Beat. Just when you think it can’t get any more glitzy, Edna Turnblad jumps out of a giant can of hairspray and the audience is treated to another few choruses of the infectiously catchy song.
Hairspray has been touring for years – it was last here in 2016 – and the reason why people are still flocking to see it is there for all to see. It’s a heart-warming and empowering tale that just makes you want to get up and dance.