Review: Hairspray the Musical

The Ipswich Regent Theatre is certainly showing us all that, even through a pandemic, you can’t stop the beat! 

That’s right, the international musical phenomenon that is Hairspray The Musical stopped in at The Regent Theatre after breaking multiple box office records and becoming a unanimous hit on West End. 

Directed by Paul Kerryson and choreographed by Drew McOnie, the toe-tapping 60’s themed show was exactly the kind of camp fun I needed. You know straight off the bat the amount of fun you’re in for when you take your place in the Regent’s seats and a blast of rainbow lights starts fanning around the auditorium, to the delight of many young theatergoers. 

To top it off, Katie Brace, making her professional stage debut as Tracy Turnblad, opened with the optimistic and wholesome song that is ‘Good Morning Baltimore’, which manages to perfectly introduce Tracy’s character. Katie effortlessly captures Tracy’s unrivaled extravagance, with her exaggerated expressions and motions, along with her naivety and pureness perfectly contrasted against the tense setting of Baltimore during the 60’s race riots. Katie was incredible and had me grinning a time or twenty at just how confident she was in the role.

Katie Brace as Tracy Turnblad

Of course, I’d be remiss to not discuss a few other standouts in the show. 

No one should be surprised to hear that comedy legend Norman Pace’s portrayal of Wilbur Turnblad, and West End’s very own Alex Bourne as Edna Turnblad, had me rolling in fits of laughter throughout the show. Alex perfectly lines up Edna’s dry humour, while Norman’s portrayal of Wilbur’s devotion to his wife and daughter brought a few awh’s to the audience (though there was one very innocent ‘ew’ from a very young audience member when the two embraced that had the entire crowd chuckling, including the cast!). The two paired together had perfect chemistry and effortlessly eased the audience through the lighter moments of the show. 

A particular favourite of mine was Rebecca Jane Davis as Penny Pingleton. She fantastically portrayed Tracy’s supportive best friend and she had me grinning even when she wasn’t front and centre, always purposefully dancing off-beat in the background or pulling a face to the audience from the back of the stage. Rebecca Thornhill also did a fabulous job at capturing the villainous Velma’s ostentatious character, she even caught me off-guard with what an incredible dancer she was! Richard Meek also made a charming Corny Collins and had me dancing in my seat during ‘Nicest Kids In Town’, and Joshua Pearson also brought the swagger of Link Larkin to the stage and was the perfect counterpart to Katie’s over-excited Tracy. 

Okay, can I gush about Brenda Edward’s Motormouth Maybelle now?! 

Gosh, her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ brought chills to the audience, it sure raised the hairs on my arms… simply put, she was fantastic. Her voice is not one to be underestimated and she truly showed the audience how it’s done, it left me absolutely gobsmacked. 

Brenda Edwards

All the dancers and costume design team brought their A-game to the show and proved why and how this musical remains iconic in the realm of theatre. While the laughs and dancing was fun, it also takes on the challenges of portraying an accurate 60’s, where racism was very, unfortunately, prominent in culture. The cast and crew don’t shy away from the realities and I, as an audience member, particularly appreciated it. 

If you’re looking for the nicest kids in town, look no further than this show, which is at The Regent until the 28th of August. It has such a unique blend that is exclusively Hairspray which manages to have you laughing and dancing whilst also reflecting on heavier and current topics. 

It’s a show that’s pure bliss for all the family and is not to be missed! 

To purchase your own tickets for the Regent, click here

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