15 July 2019

Poppy's First Show

Another blog written by one of you, the readers, this time it's Poppy Baxter who talks about seeing her first show, Hairspray.

Everyone has a few stand-out childhood movies, the ones that remind you now of your years then. My sister and I still share an intense love for the critically panned The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, she adored Bend it Like Beckham, my heart lay with Hairspray. 

As with many equally embarrassing memories from my pre-teens, my conscience will never quite be cleared of the crush I had on Elijah Kelley’s Seaweed from the 2007 Hairspray movie.

Hairspray Movie Poster.
The film was like candy, filled with sherbet dresses and catchy, cotton-candy tunes. Something about the film resonated with me, Tracy Turnblad’s confidence, beauty and strong voice empowered a chubby, frizzy-haired Pops and soon enough my sister was begging for a moments reprieve from my heartfelt car-ride renditions of ‘Good Morning Baltimore’.

I must’ve watched that movie 20, 21, 22 times over, the CD might as well have set up house in my CD player. I knew every word to every song, every riff my dear Seaweed sang, every “front step cha-cha-cha, back step cha-cha-cha” the Corny Collins hopefuls danced.

When the show came to the Birmingham Hippodrome in 2010 and my friend and I got tickets for my birthday, I didn’t think I could ever be more excited. A few rows back in the dress circle sat mum then, me then Chloe, then dad then sister, and then the show began.

Memories of the show come in bubbly, bright, technicolour bursts. The actors seemed like giants, the sets as tall as buildings. I remember the twirling swing skirts and saccharine suits of the ‘Nicest Kids in Town’, the moving melodies of the ensemble in ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’. I remember Les Dennis and Brian Conley as Wilbur and Edna Turnblad corpsing mid-embrace during ‘Timeless To Me’, the audience cheering them on only making it harder for them to keep a straight face. I remember thinking how much fun they all must be having, how pretty all the lights, costumes, sets were; and oh, sweet Seaweed. The dance moves were even more impressive in person.

I think I knew then that theatre meant something special. You could step into a room and be transported back in time or across the Atlantic or both. You could live anywhere for 2 hours and 20 minutes, even in your favourite movie, but it was more than a movie; more vibrant, more thrilling, more impermanent and unpredictable. In what movie would the actors crack up mid-scene? No cuts, no edits, no rewinds. It all happens in front of you. For all, I knew Chloe hated it, but I was hooked.

Production photo from Hairspray. Photo credit unknown.
Now decidedly older, arguably more mature and somewhat less chubby than I was then, I still can’t help falling in love all over again when I listen to Hairspray. With a fuller understanding of the context of the show and the society it portrays, I feel even more grateful to have witnessed it at such a young age. Hairspray is a show about acceptance, love and making yourself heard, messages which seem all-too-relevant in current climates.

And Seaweed, if you’re reading this, call me. 

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