Hairspray Review

Birmingham Hippodrome – until Saturday 2 October 2021

Reviewed by Joanne Hodge


This musical spectacular recommenced its national tour last night at The Birmingham Hippodrome, under the direction of Paul Kerryson, and I have to say, there were many moments that had my hair’s standing on end without any need for support from Ultra Clutch!

In her professional debut, Katie Brace shone as sweet, non-conformist, forward thinking Tracy Turnblad; her zest for life, love and equality bounced off the stage in abundance. Along with her hilarious and physically-awkward best friend Penny Pingleton [Rebecca Jayne-Davies] we follow the trials and tribulations of teenage life, through first love, independence and rebellion.

There was a certain, unsurprising comic-genius around the partnership of Edna and Wilmur Turnblad [Alex Bourne and Norman Pace], with some risqué ad-libbing between the pair causing much laughter and applause, as well as their own corpsing. An absolute joy!

It’s a rare delight to see a storyline where even the male leads are somewhat only a support act to an ensemble of feisty females, but both Seaweed and Link Larkin [Akeem Ellis-Hyman and Ross Clifton] sang and danced their socks off, with energy off-the-scale.

I have to say though, for me, the absolute star of this show was Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle. She moved across the stage with ease, providing a warm and welcoming presence to all. You felt like you’d she’d invite you right in to one of her renown Platter Parties, regardless of your colour, age or preferences. And when she sang … my gosh! The roof nearly came off. There always seems to be a certain snobbish attitude toward any ex-reality TV talent who decide to tread the boards, but no-one in that auditorium could dispute her absolute class. Her voice ranges from deep, dark chocolate tones up to the clarity of the finest crystal glass, and was pitch-perfect on every note. I could have gladly listened to her all day and night. The only additional complement I have is that my companion for the evening was very taken with Maybelle’s sparkly gold jumpsuit, but we both agreed it wouldn’t wear to well in our local!

Adding the magic of the lighting by Philip Gladwell, sound by Ben Harrison and the fabulous wardrobe and set form Takis, this really is a show not to be missed. Rat your hair, put on your dancing shoes, and give yourself over to Hairspray!