Talking Theatre: Norman Pace Discusses Hairspray The Musical – Part 1

The UK tour of Hairspray begins at Bristol Hippodrome today (March 5), featuring the iconic music and lyrics by Academy Award, Tony and Emmy winning duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

The 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 our final segment of interviews with the stars of the current UK tour, comedian, Norman Pace discusses playing Wilbur Turnblad.

How have you found been on the road with Hairspray?

It’s been fascinating and tiring but more than anything it has been invigorating.  Coming to the end of the show, every night, and seeing the audiences on their feet cheering and smiling makes everything worth it. 

Norman Pace (pictured right) with Rebecca Mendoza and Matt Rixon in the UK Tour of Hairspray.Norman Pace (pictured right) with Rebecca Mendoza and Matt Rixon in the UK Tour of Hairspray.

Norman Pace (pictured right) with Rebecca Mendoza and Matt Rixon in the UK Tour of Hairspray.

What attracted you to the role of Wilbur? 

Wilbur is a fascinating character; he is quirky, wise, strange. I was attracted to the role because I found different ways of delivering all his lines to get the maximum effect from them and it’s one of those things that even 125 performances in, I continue to do and now I just seem to turn into him as soon as the costume is on. I thought this role, the role of Wilbur, was right for me. I looked at it on paper and it immediately reflected what I’m good at, what I think I do best. I just knew it really wanted to do this.

Did you find any inspiration from any of your characters in your sketches in Hale and Pace?

No, I have never done that with any part I have outside of Hale and Pace really because it would be wrong to think that you can just simply slip on an old pair of slippers when it’s a different character.

I know I have been cast in various things where they have wanted a part from one of the characters and element is ok but they are never the same character, they have to be different in order for it to be genuine. I can’t think of any of the characters in Hale and Pace which were at all like how I play Wilbur, actually.  

What have you enjoyed about being back on the stage? 

I think it is the party-like atmosphere, especially with something like Hairspray. So often I can walk into the theatre feeling low or miserable, even tired especially on a Wednesday matinee where we have to be at the theatre for 12 which sometimes feels like it’s too early to be jumping around, dancing and singing but by the time the show has finished I can’t help but, with the adrenaline running through my body, feeling like I have had the best time and it’s a joy to do it. 

Norman Pace stars in Hairspray at The Bristol HippodromeNorman Pace stars in Hairspray at The Bristol Hippodrome

Norman Pace stars in Hairspray at The Bristol Hippodrome

Why do you think Hairspray has such an enduring appeal? Why do you think Hairspray keeps coming back?

I think a show like Hairspray had such an enduring appeal because it’s the best night out in Theatre that you can have, certainly that’s what I have found the audiences have said, it is beautifully structured, incredibly well written, very energetic, great songs and it’s funny to boot!

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

Effervescent, educational and extraordinary! 

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

Yes, there is and it is nothing to do with me although I do love doing Timeless to Me with Matt (Rixon) and it seems to work every night but my favourite moment has to be watching Layton Williams do Run and Tell That it is a huge highlight for me. For him to be so brilliant and so young, that man has got a great future ahead of him and it’s been a great pleasure to watch him in action. 

Read Part 2 of Norman Pace’s Hairspray interview tomorrow.