Hairspray is always an entertaining watch, and this touring production, directed by Paul Kerryson, is no exception. However, while some aspects of the show were standout, other areas were weak, and I found myself torn between three or four stars.
In the end, I opted for the latter, simply because the performances of Matt Rixon and Norman Pace, as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, respectively, and Layton Williams and Annalise Liard-Bailey, as Seaweed and Penny, were so utterly brilliant that they saved the entire show. They were all having the time of their lives, and in turn, we loved seeing them on the stage.
The chorus were fine; though the energy fell flat at times they did a good job at driving the show forward, and other supporting roles were enjoyable, particularly Gina Murray as Velma Von Tussle and Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle, who sang exquisitely.
The show was not without its issues, though; most notably the performances of Rebecca Mendoza and Edward Chitticks as Tracy and Link. We know Tracy is an excitable teenager; this doesn’t need to be reflected in a screechy, whiny voice which only serves to grate on every nerve imaginable. Because of this, much of the impact of the storyline is lost, sadly, because I struggle to believe Tracy actually cares about segregation when she’s just delivering all her lines at such a high pitch. On the opposing end, Chitticks was flat and dull; none of Link’s characteristic swagger was present and it was hard to believe this was a character that anyone would be swooning over.
Issues also, with the sound, which seems to happen on almost every opening at the Hippodrome for some reason, and also with costume. Psychedelia, to my knowledge, didn’t really enter the mainstream fashion conscience until late sixties; certainly not 1962. At the start of the show the girls are all in prom-style dresses which is accurate for late fifties/ early sixties style. Why, then, do we finish up in the most hideous costumes for the finale, all adorned with psychedelic patterns? It made no sense and was a total eyesore. Another bugbear was the modern coloured Adidas worn by some male cast members.
I’m sure as Hairspray settles into its run, many of its issues will be ironed out, and maybe as nerves settle the actors will find their characters a little more. As I said at the top; an entertaining show, and I’d happily watch Rixon and Pace’s scenes over and over again.