Review: Hairspray, New Theatre, Cardiff

Thomas Howells checks out the musical, Hairspray at Cardiff’s New Theatre.

Welcome to the 60s! , the musical, Hairspray has arrived at Cardiff’s New Theatre and as Monday night’s premiere performance proved – you can’t stop the beat!

With a setting in the U.S. state of Baltimore during 1962, Hairspray follows teenager Tracy Turnblad’s journey to television stardom, whilst fighting racial hatred and supporting body positivity. A musical, everybody must see, the productions prevalence of racism is fitting for the time-setting and the speaking out against it is unexpectedly supportive for a girl in the 1960s. This makes the story of an uphill battle that ends won beautiful to watch.

The show’s production team capture the essence of a movie on stage, which is absolutely necessary. I found Hairspray well visualised, especially with the minimalist set. While a couple of platforms can turn into a split-screen scene, some set pieces are reused to create different layouts and locations. This is effective and unique for a professional presentation.

The pop-idol and dancers costumes to everyday life dresses and jail suits are well observed for the time-period and fit the individual characters stories. The contrasting looks of the Von Tussle and Turnblad families visualise their contrasting ideals of which this symbolism is particularly effective. On a similar note, each character has a theme-lighting which visualises how bubbly or (in the case of Rebecca Thornhill’s Velma Von Tussle) how wicked the character i. In each case the lighting remains consistent.

Drew McOnie’s choreography was an incredible fit for Hairspray’s time-period, capturing the rapid moving and sudden changes that were popular for the early 60s dancing era. 

Seaweed was an incredible character who was beautifully portrayed by Reece Richards . A loveable and captivating character that was absolutely necessary for the story. Also, Brenda Edwards portrayal of Motormouth Maybelle steals the show whenever she wis on stage. Her character is one of my favourites for her personality by how supportive and strong she is given the story’s time setting.

Alex Bourne and Norman Pace raise many laughs as Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, particularly on their duet You’re Timeless To Me, which had the audience in laughter on more than one occasion.

The Turnblads tread the boards of Cardiff New Theatre courtesy of Norman Pace, Alex Bourne and Katie Brace in Hairspray.

Some of Hairspray‘s most heartfelt moments lie between Katie Brace’s Tracy Turnblad and Ross Clifton’s Link Larkin, particularly as they realise there is more to life than fame and success, in particularly equality for everyone to enjoy their lives through music, love and expression.

Hairspray is incredibly immersive and magical. Every prop and piece of set is used right, the characters are beautiful and the message fits with a feelgood vibe, something I think everybody needs to see!

Hairspray continues at Cardiff’s New Theatre until Saturday 19 February 2022.

Published by Thomas Howells

The doctor said I should be in hospital for all the blood I was losing, but instead I went to drama practice

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