The much loved musical, Hairspray, has arrived at Birmingham Hippodrome for a two week period. Having read about the opening night standing ovation, I was even more excited to see it, especially as it is one of my favourite films.
The cast, well what can I say, they were amazing. Mark Benton, best known for playing “Daniel ‘Chalky’ Chalk” on BBC’s Waterloo Road, played the fantastic character of Edna Turnblad. He was joined by understudy Wendy Somerville as Velma Von Tussle, X Factor finalist Marcus Collins as the all-singing, all-dancing Seaweed Stubbs and Freya Sutton who played the famous Tracy Turnblad.
You would never have guessed that the same Mark Benton, who plays a nervous wreck on Waterloo Road, is the same glitzy drag artist. He really was fantastic and even when his character slipped, it was lovely to see his personality shine through amidst roaring laughter from the audience, who lapped it up. This was particularly evident in his duet with ‘his husband’ Wilbur Turnblad, played by Paul Rider, which left the audience in stitches. He looked like the stereotype of a comedy double act and couldn’t have played the part any better if the film version is anything to go by.
Before the show had even began, I was sure I’d love the character that Marcus Collins plays – Seaweed is one of my favourites in the film. I already knew he could sing but boy can he move! He was so flexible that he could have been made of elastic and you could tell he really was born to be on stage.
I thought Freya Sutton had tough competition as some of the other cast members were quite well known. However, she was the biggest stage personality, being so full of life and reveling in her role. Luke Striffler, who played Link Larkin was every bit the heart-throb, with his moves, grooves and tunes. His passion was evident in everything from ‘the motion of the ocean’ to the ‘sun in the sky’. He really couldn’t stop the beat!
Corny Collins, played by Piers Bate, lived up to the characters name and was indeed, ‘corny’, nailing the part. However, I must say, an unforgettable character was Lauren Hood who played geeky Penny Pingleton. Her energy and stage presence had us transfixed, and her ability to stay in her gawky role throughout even all the dance moves, really shows just what a talent she is (and a real highlight of the show)!
Gemma Sutton (Amber Von Tussle) and her equally spoilt mother (Wendy Somerville) made a fearsome duo with their scheming plans and diva behaviour. However, the show really couldn’t have been in the ‘standing ovation on a Wednesday night category’ without being completed by the chorus: Lou-Anne, Brad, IQ, Shelly, Tammy, Brenda, Fender and Sketch who put on a fabulous show. I particularly loved the novelty and skill of the musical director’s solo spot. Peter White showed off his orchestra’s talents, whilst building the audience for the second half.
The set was bright and colourful, just how it should be and worked well with this stage adaption of this much-loved musical.
In case you can’t tell already, I absolutely adored Hairspray and would recommend it to absolutely anyone, of any age, who loves musical theatre. I just found it hard not being able to sing along at the top of my voice to some of my favourite tunes but that didn’t stop me from belting out renditions the whole way home… I just wish I could now be ‘welcomed to the 60’s’!
For more information or to book tickets click here.
Here’s what some of the audience members had to say during the interval!
Me with Marcus Collins (and other X Factor contestants) in 2012!
I am a blogger and member of Birmingham Hippodrome’s First Night Scheme, offering £5 tickets to 16-21 year olds – CLICK HERE to join the scheme for free.