Good morning Baltimore! Well, more like good evening Ipswich…
Ipswich Regent has finally reopened its doors this month and is excited to be welcoming audiences again with Hairspray the Musical, the first of many major touring shows to be hitting Ipswich – what a show to be welcomed back with!
The stage show of Hairspray has been delighting audiences since 2002 in multiple productions worldwide, and this current tour is no exception to the rule.
To those who may not be familiar with the show, we are transported to Baltimore in 1962; a time when hair-dos were high, segregation still present and prejudice was rife. Coming-of-age teenager Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance program that every teen in Baltimore watches.
When Tracy triumphs in earning a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and decides to use her newfound voice to lead for social change and campaigns for the show to be integrated rather than segregated. With a strong force of friends behind her, she helps to make waves.
What I love about this show, is that while on the surface it seems an easy-going and bubblegum-fun kind of show, it actually harbours very important messages and reminders. It’s a glance at society in 1960s America, where being black or looking and being different to the American stereotype was frowned upon, and this show challenges you to look at how to dismantle that. Sure, there are moments within the show that feel somewhat uncomfortable in how they would be unacceptable now, but that makes the fact it was acceptable then an even more important and timely realisation, particularly when you think of the Black Lives Matter movement over the last year and how there’s still a way to go yet.
That said, it is the perfect antidote and ‘welcome back’ to the theatre. While there is a slightly heavy backdrop of real social issues, the forefront of the show is high-energy, witty, romantic and fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the songs are catchy as hell. Numbers include Good Morning Baltimore, I Can Hear the Bells, Welcome to the 60’s, and the iconic You Can’t Stop the Beat – and you can’t help but toe-tap along.
In terms of casting; Alex Bourne is a bit of a theatre veteran, and this is another role that proves his talent as an actor as he transforms into Edna. Brenda Edwards’ belting vocals simply stop you in your tracks and make the auditorium silent enough to hear a pin drop. Considering Katie Brace is making her professional debut as Tracy, you wouldn’t know it – and she radiates joy in the role. Though the entire cast are brilliant in their respective roles, and there are too many worthy of a mention to compliment them all.
Above all, if you want a fun evening out at the theatre where you can leave your cares at the door and just revel in the joy of a live show, this musical is a must-see. It’s fairly simplistic in its production, but the loud garish costumes and promise to find yourself brimming with joy, sharing a few laughs and tapping along to the tunes make it worth your time. The first night got a standing ovation, and I have no doubt they will continue for the rest of the run – you truly can’t stop the beat of Hairspray!
Hairspray runs at the Ipswich Regent Theatre until Saturday 28th August. For more information or to book visit: ipswichtheatres.co.uk/hairspray.
For the full list of tour dates and further information visit hairsprayuktour.com.