Never mind Good Morning Baltimore – it will be Good Morning Norwich when the award-winning musical Hairspray arrives at the city’s Theatre Royal from March 29 to April 2.
This brand new production of the feel-good smash-hit show about Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, stars songstress Claire Sweeney (Educating Rita, Chicago) as Velma Von Tussle, Olivier Award-nominated actor and Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan (BBC1 Tumble) as Wilbur Turnblad, West End performers Brenda Edwards (Chicago, We Will Rock You, The X Factor) as Motormouth Maybelle and Matthew Rixon (The Producers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the RSC’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) as Edna Turnblad and Jon Tsouras (A Chorus Line) as Corny Collins.
Freya Sutton, who played Tracy Turnblad in the last UK and Ireland tour, returns to the role again, while Duane is played by Layton Williams who appeared in Billy Elliott in the West End and is best known for playing Stephen in BBC3’s comedy hit Bad Education.
Layton was part of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures cast who appeared at Norwich Theatre Royal in November 2014 in Lord of the Flies, the landmark project which gave local young actors the chance to dance alongside professionals in a fully-fledged production, and he has since returned to the city to give dance masterclasses to local students.
Also appearing as a member of the Hairspray ensemble is Norwich actor Gabriel Mokake. He came to the city as a child from Tanzania with his mother and younger brother and the family hit the headlines in 2010 when they were threatened with deportation. A Facebook campaign and online petition were launched and the family was granted leave to stay, enabling Gabriel, who attended Norwich’s Hewett School, to study for a degree in Musical Theatre at the Guildford School of Acting.
Other cast members are Dex Lee (The Scottsboro Boys) as Seaweed, Ashley Gilmour (Miss Saigon) as Link Larkin, Lauren Stroud (Wicked) as Amber, Monique Young (Top Hat) as Penny, Karis Jack (Urinetown) as Little Inez, Adam Price (Hairspray) as Male Authority Figure, Tracey Penn (Made in Dagenham) as Female Authority Figure.
It’s Baltimore 1962, where Tracy is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV. Her audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality in a social commentary on the racial injustices of parts of American society in the 1960s. She also bags local heartthrob Link Larkin in the process.
Hairspray is based on the 1988 film of the same name which starred Divine and Ricki Lake by cult filmmaker John Waters. With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, the show opened to rave reviews on Broadway in 2002 and subsequently won eight Tony Awards.
Opening in London in 2007, it won four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical, and went on to also open in South Africa, Japan, South Korea, China and Dubai.
Following the musical’s phenomenal success on stage, a film of the musical was also released in 2007 starring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Marsden.
Hairspray is produced by Mark Goucher and Laurence Myers, Tom O’Connell Productions Ltd., Just for Laughs Theatricals, Gale King Productions, Gary Brown and Curve theatre, Leicester. It is is directed by Paul Kerryson, with choreography by Drew McOnie and musical direction by Ben Atkinson.