Hairspray at the Opera House, Manchester

Starring Matt Rixon (The LadykillersAround the World in 80 Days) as Edna Turnblad, Norman Pace (ITV’s The Hale and Pace Show) as Wilbur Turnblad, Brenda Edwards(ChicagoWe Will Rock YouThe X Factor) as Motormouth Maybelle, Layton Williams(Bad EducationRent) as Seaweed and, making her professional debut, Rebecca Mendoza as Tracy Turnblad.

It’s Baltimore, 1962 where Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV. Featuring the hit songs Welcome To The ‘60sYou Can’t Stop The BeatThe Nicest Kids in Town and many more, this is a show that’s sure to have you dancing the night away.

Sarah Clarke and her husband Jeremy, went to review Hairspray for us on Monday 26th March 2018 at the Opera House, Manchester. This is what they had to say about this popular musical…

The lady’s point of view…

I take my hat off to David Grindrod Associates who did a great job of casting this show. There isn’t really a weak link amongst them all. Some had more stage experience, which showed in their performance but there was no questioning their voices. I’d never seen this show before and what a great treat it turned out to be.

Set in Baltimore in the 1960s, the show opens with The Corny Collins Show, when auditions are announced, Tracy Turnblad’s mother Edna tells her she is not allowed to skip school to go, but her joke shop-owner father Wilbur encourages her to follow her dreams.

The auditions don’t go so well, Tracy is made fun of for her size and it is here we are meet Velma Von Tussle –the producer who is trying to make sure her daughter is crowned the new ‘Miss Hairspray’. Velma may be the ‘bad guy’ but you can’t deny she has a powerful voice. Gina Murray, was clearly at home on the stage and played her manipulating character well.

The script was often hilarious in parts and there was one show-stopping song after another. Lots of toe tapping and laughter from the audience. This show appealed to a wide range of people from 10 years to 80 year olds, everybody enjoyed this rip roaring stream of music and the whole theatre erupted into a well-deserved standing ovation during the last song. What seemed to make this show even more enjoyable to watch was that everybody on stage seemed to be having a great time too.

What a giggle Matt Rixon had playing the role of Edna, he was comfortable enough in the part to really enjoy it, especially in his relationship with Edna’s husband Wilbur played  by Graham McDuff, I wouldn’t have known Graham was the understudy as he owned that role and the stage throughout the show. Their duet ‘Timeless To Me’ was filled with corpsing and suggestive ad-libs, but it was one of my highlights and was to me the funniest moment of the show.

Rebecca Mendoza is a fantastic Tracy, she is on the stage most of the time and sings and dances her way through a lot of numbers. From the first note she sang to the last, she was pitch perfect and her acting during the scene when Link sings to her was hilarious.

The rest of the cast have fabulous voices too from Penny Pingleton, Annalise Liard-Bailey, who played Tracy’s un-coordinated friend showed off her voice in the last few numbers. The backing singers, Dynamite, were given their moment to shine and they grabbed it with both hands. There were also some smooth moves from Layton Williams as the cool Seaweed. There was one voice though that nobody could match and that was the amazing Brenda Edwards as fabulous Motormouth Maybelle. Her time to shine came during ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ which left the whole audience amazed and gained her the loudest cheer of all at the end of the show.

The show rattled along at a great pace with wonderful songs delivered by great performers. It was a fabulous evening of great music, dance and humour. If I could see it again tonight I would!

Score 10/10 *****

Sarah Clarke (Wife) Trusted Reviewer from Radcliffe, Lancashire

The gentleman’s point of view…

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Hairspay. I remember only seeing a very brief bit of the film on TV a few years ago where John Travolta was dressed as a middle aged woman. I didn’t really have a clue as to what was going on, and when I asked my wife what the musical was about she told me that it was centred on race segregation in the 1960’s. I was struggling to tie this to a cross dressing John Travolta, so whilst being baffled, I did approach the show with an open mind.

And, thankfully, I was right to. This was a rip-roaring show from start to finish – well almost, there were a couple of slower, more introspective songs part-way through. The music was lively and loud, and the singers were exceptional. Not a single flat note throughout the night. I did not know any of the songs but this did not detract at all from the enjoyment of them.

The story was really easy to follow. I felt it did a decent job of summarising the plight and prejudices faced and although it was pretty light-touch it fitted in with the overall feel of the show very well. I was hoping for a bigger comeuppance for the villains at the end however the ending was a good match to the overall message.

Running through the show was a sense of fun. The light-hearted script was really well handled by all the performers. The characters of Edna and Wilbur had a great chemistry that grew throughout the show. Whilst Wilber was initially a bit part player he shared some stand out moments in the second act that were very funny. It may have been excellent acting but it did seem at one point they were having too much fun together and got a fit of the giggles on stage caused by some entertaining ad-libs.

The bad guys played their parts well – nothing too over the top or pantomime worthy, but clearly with a villainous edge. I was a big fan of the goofy physical comedy from Tracey Penn, her timing and judgement were terrific.

What really gave the show its life were the song and dance routines. These were executed brilliantly, with slick choreography that was not just about the dance moves. In many routines the characters interacted, chatted and acted whilst the main dance was going on around them. It was an immersive experience that was incredibly easy to get into, especially when the performers were moving through the stalls to get to the stage!

Whilst I am absolutely not a fan of standing up and dancing for the final number of a show pretty much everyone else at this performance did, and I can’t begrudge them that – it was a fabulous night.

Score 9/10 *****

Jeremy Clarke (Husband) Trusted Reviewer from Radcliffe, Lancashire

Lady’s Score – 10/10
Gentleman’s Score – 9/10

Total Score – 19/20 *****

Hairspray is on in Manchester until April 7th 2018. You can purchase tickets by clicking on the link below:





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