Talking Theatre: Layton Williams 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.

Featuring the much-loved musical comedy stars Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle and Layton Williams as Seaweed, Hairspray also stars  comedian Norman Pace as Wilbur Turnblad, Matt Rixon returns to the role of Edna Turnblad and Rebecca Mendoza as Tracy Turnblad.

Following on from the recent interview with Brenda Edwards, today, Layton Williams discusses his role of Seaweed…

For those who don’t know, what’s the story of Hairspray

Hairspray is a show for everyone! It is loosely based on a true story. Set in 1960s Baltimore, Hairspray is about a girl called Tracy Turnblad who dreams of being on this dance show, The Corny Collins Show. But, Tracy is not allowed on the show because they say she is too big and she doesn’t look like the people that are already on the show. Tracy meets my character, Seaweed, in detention and through dancing he gives Tracy the confidence and belief in herself that you can do what you want no matter who you are, where you are from or what you look like.

Eventually Tracy gets on The Corny Collins Show and realises that it’s not just her that has been denied approval. She begins to fight for Seaweed and his friends to be able to dance with her on The Corny Collins Show. We all riot together for equality and to make The Corny Collins Show integrated. It’s an incredibly fun show but also spreading an important message at the same time. It’s a fabulous show for everybody! 

Could you tell us about Seaweed J Stubbs and what attracted you to the role?  

We first meet Seaweed J Stubbs in detention with Tracy. He is a very welcoming character and open to everyone regardless of whether it is seen as cool or not. He is very different to the way I am in life and from the last role I just did which was playing a drag queen in RENT. That’s what attracted me to the role of Seaweed. It’s important for me to be able to switch up what I am doing and not play the same kind of roles all the time because as an actor you want to be versatile.

I was quite nervous about playing Seaweed! I have been running around in heels with my lashes, my wigs and my lipstick for a whole year so I was very much in that mind set but I thought it would be nice to switch it up, pop on my trousers, get myself a girlfriend and have that different vibe.

There are vocal challenges to the role of Seaweed as well – the songs are high and packed full of energy which I have been really enjoying this time round. Singing is something that only now am I starting to become confident with as a performer. With Seaweed,

I thought I might as well throw myself in at the deep end and learn to sing these big songs…8 shows a night! I am really, really enjoying those challenges and that’s what it was that drew me in to playing Seaweed. Obviously, in the last tour I was understudy for it but didn’t really get the chance to put my stamp on it and now I feel like I have done that.  

An ensemble scene from Hairspray, playing Bristol Hippodrome from March 5-10An ensemble scene from Hairspray, playing Bristol Hippodrome from March 5-10

An ensemble scene from Hairspray, playing Bristol Hippodrome from March 5-10

Why do you think Hairspray has such an enduring appeal? 

I think no matter when the show has been out or when the movies have been aired, it has always been a relevant time whether that is today, 10 or 30 years ago. We have always been going through struggles, there is always some sort of craziness going on in the world, so we need that release. People need that 2-3 hours of being able to laugh and cry and be entertained and I think Hairspray is the perfect show for that.  

If anyone is not familiar with the show, how would you describe it in three words? 

Hairspray is bubbly, energetic and passionate. 

Do you have a favourite moment or song in the show? Why? 

I think my favourite moment in the show must be Run and Tell That. As a performer you want to go out there and really do your thing and Run and Tell That is my chance to do that. I get to show the audience what I am made of during that song. It’s a hugely important part of the story too; Seaweed is telling the world about this lifestyle and bringing those other people into that world which is what we should all be doing.

It’s also one of the moments in the show where we really get to dance too, it’s such a good vibe for us and the audience. We always want to create that energy throughout the show for the audience, every night, but especially during Run and Tell that because that’s when they really feel it.  

  • Hairspray runs at Bristol Hippodrome from March 5 – 10 for ticket details visit

  • Check back tomorrow for the second part of this interview with Leyton Edwards

  • Read our review of Hairspray at Wales Millennium Centre

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