5 October 2021

Hairspray - Curve (UK Tour) Review

The smash-hit musical Hairspray has burst to life at Curve as part of its latest UK and Ireland tour. 

The musical set in 1962 delivers a punchy piece about race and equality that feels more relevant than ever as we follow Tracy Turnblad and her wish for getting her favourite TV show fully integrated. 

The company of Hairspray. Photo by Mark Senior.

Quite literally 'The New Girl In Town' in her professional debut, Katie Brace offers a fabulous take on Tracy, she's energetic, charming, feisty, and has a big voice that hits all the right notes. She is the heartbeat of the production and is a joy to watch. There's great chemistry with Ross Clifton's Link Larkin, who battles for his own career as he looks for his big break.

Rebecca Thornhill is effective as the villain of the piece Velma Von Tussle, the producer of The Corny Collins Show who wants to keep everything as white as it currently is. She is matched by a brilliant Jessica Croll as her daughter Amber. Both effectively nail the feel of the characters.

Alex Bourne does a decent job with Edna but is overshadowed by a delightful comic performance by Norman Pace as husband Wilbur. Their duet 'You're Timeless To Me' brings the house down with laughter - although as someone who has seen Hairspray a few times previously I'd like to have seen some new jokes inserted here.

Katie Brace as Tracy Turnblad. Photo by Mark Senior.

Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle offers the big voice you expect as well as fantastic passion and drive as she supports Tracy's cause. 'I Know Where I've Been' is a real showstopping moment that Edwards delivers in a spectacular way. Richard Meek dazzles as Corny Collins, superbly holding his show together as he stands his ground against Velma.

The real star turn of the production comes from the energetic Rebecca Jayne-Davies as Penny Pingleton. In every scene, she brings an excellent voice and impressive comedic timing. It's hard to not keep an eye on her performance throughout. 

Whilst the talent in the cast and the energy levels are high, especially as they deliver Drew McOnie's striking choreography, there is just something lacking about this latest production helmed by the old Curve artistic director Paul Kerryson. Visually it looks a bit tacky in places and that pulls away from the spectacle. Visible stagehands holding pieces of set and bare stages make the whole thing feel a bit makeshift. Where some of the sets lack the production is fantastically lit designed by Philip Gladwell that enhances the feel especially in the larger ensemble numbers.

Ultimately though, whatever the show lacks is forgotten as the show ends with a riotous reception with the number 'You Can't Stop The Beat' whilst this isn't the perfect production it offers more than enough spectacle that will leave your heart full as you leave the theatre.

Rating: ⭐⭐ uplifting timely musical with some fantastic performances.

Hairspray continues at Curve until Saturday 9th October 2021 with tickets available from www.curveonline.co.uk. The tour then continues visiting various venues up and down the UK and Ireland - visit https://www.hairsprayuktour.com/ for full tour schedule and booking.

The cast of Hairspray. Photo by Mark Senior.

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