Talking Theatre: Brenda Edwards Discusses Hairspray The Musical – Part 1

The UK tour of Hairspray comes to Bristol Hippodrome from March 5, the production features the iconic music and lyrics by Academy Award, Tony and Emmy winning duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

The much-loved musical comedy stars Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle and Layton Williams as Seaweed. Alongside award-winning comedian Norman Pace as Wilbur Turnblad, Matt Rixon returns to the role of Edna Turnblad and newcomer Rebecca Mendoza makes her professional debut as Tracy Turnblad.

In the first part of a series of interviews with the stars of the current UK tour, former X Factor contestant and musical theatre star. Brenda Edwards  discusses the production and reveals why she returned to the role of Motormouth Maybelle.

Brenda Edwards plays Motormouth Maybelle in HairsprayBrenda Edwards plays Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray

Brenda Edwards plays Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray

Could you tell us about Motormouth Maybelle and what attracted you to the role?  

I remember watching the original film and then I went to see the Musical in 2007, on Broadway and 2008, in the West End, I really enjoyed the whole show, but was particularly excited by the Motormouth character. Having a Son and Daughter of my own,

I could relate to her nurturing strong protective side where she must be in charge and then there is the entertaining side, where she plays her music and has fun with everyone, whilst having that serious side lending an ear or a shoulder if needed, but she does have her own opinions on things and doesn’t mind voicing it. Owning her own record shop,

I think she is the central hub where all the kids in the neighbourhood can come and hang out. – and the songs she sings are just fabulous! She has a big personality just like me, so I think it’s a perfect role. 

You did the previous tour of Hairspray, what drew you back? 

I wanted to come back on this tour production for the second time, because it really helped to get me through, what I was going through, when after the first half of the tour, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The songs in the show are uplifting in so many different ways and performing in the show helped me not to focus on the chemotherapy.

One of the songs that I sing and especially drew strength from, was I Know Where I Have Been, the words already had so much meaning to me, and throughout the rest of the tour helped me to stay positive and keep thinking of brighter days!  

So I guess to me it was very therapeutic and just what I needed. It is also very important for me to be able to do the tour again because I have got some personal demons to deal with of being able to do the whole tour this time round, there was one venue I couldn’t do at all. But we are going back to it, Venue Cymru in Llandudno. I drove there from our previous venue, Milton Keynes on the Sunday and woke up on the Monday and couldn’t walk. I was just stuck there, for a few days while everyone else was doing the show – I was so upset! So yeah, I’m excited about this 2nd tour for so many reasons! 

A dance scene from the musical, Hairspray, coming to Bristol HippodromeA dance scene from the musical, Hairspray, coming to Bristol Hippodrome

A dance scene from the musical, Hairspray, coming to Bristol Hippodrome

How has it been being back in rehearsals? Does it feel different to the last tour? 

Oh my God, yes! It’s amazing! I thought Drew McOnie’s choreography was a lot the first-time round, (well, it was a lot the first-time round). But, this time round, it’s almost like choreography wise we are doing what we had the first time round and then add the same amount on again,  but all in the same period. I also think, as I obviously haven’t been doing much exercise over the last year I’m finding it a bit harder this time round to get up to speed, but the more we run it the easier its becoming …. best all singing all dancing workout ever!!

I’m absolutely loving it, the cast are so talented, I’m enjoying getting to know everyone. But it’s great – it’s so much fun and the energy! The energy levels are so high from the start, all the way through. From Good Morning Baltimore to You Can’t Stop the Beat there is just so much going on.

This fantastic new cast they are all just on it. Within two weeks, we were doing act one and had staggered act two. So, by week three we were on tjust getting it into our bodies. The pace is moving so much quicker than it did last time, your brain doesn’t have time to switch off. I can’t wait! I can’t wait! We saw the new set design and it looks amazing Takis is so talented! it is going to be amazing! Its bigger and brighter and beautifuller! That’s not a word but I’m making it up!  

What can audiences expect from Hairspray? If anyone is not familiar with the show, how would you describe it in three words? 

Bigger, brighter and beautifuller! I love it! 

Audiences can expect energy, a lot of laughs some fantastic songs played by a phenomenal band, while at the same time listening to the message which I think is so current I know, I am sounding like I am  a 1960s hippy , but I just wish everyone would just spread the love and get on with one another, put your differences aside, cause there will always be difference of opinions that what makes us individuals.

I think that’s what this show embodies no matter what race, size opinions in the end it’s all about coming together and showing a united front. Hopefully people will come out of the show thinking, “OK, that’s given me food for thought at the same time as a great nights entertainment.  

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