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Review: Hairspray at New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Hairspray, New Victoria Theatre, Woking, until Sat 19 March

Whats10Hairspray. Credit Ellie Kurttz (1).jpg

I don’t mind admitting to gaps in my history of musicals. I’ve never seen Hairspray – the musical or the film. How I’ve managed to remain a Hairspray virgin for so long, I don’t quite know. But then it was only recently that I saw Mamma Mia on stage for the first time, so on reflection perhaps it’s not so surprising after all.

But last night at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre, my Hairspray cherry was well and truly popped. This pop musical is giddy, gutsy and vibrant. And despite it being set in Baltimore in 1962, it still feels strangely relevant. It captures the social upheavals of the 1960s, and in particular the civil rights movement, but does so with a light touch and upbeat quality.

This is the story of Tracy Turnblad, a big white girl with a big beehived hairdo, who wants to be a dancer on national television. She auditions and wins a place on her a local show, The Corny Collins Show, where black kids are allowed to dance only one day a month.

Whats10Hairspray. Credit Ellie Kurttz (3).jpg

Tracy stands out among the gaggle of waspish white girls on the Corny Collins Show, not just for her plus-size and beehive, but also for her feisty enthusiasm for life and her big heart. Using her new-found fame, she fights for racial equality, attracting the attention of local heartthrob Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour) in the process.

As Tracy, Freya Sutton brings charm, wit and warmth to the role, played by Ricki Lake in the 1998 film by cult filmmaker John Waters. Sutton is energetic and full of bounce, and boy can she belt out a song!

Matthew Rixon is splendid as Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s larger-than-life, though somewhat downtrodden mother, bringing warmth and compassion and a little humour without any hint of panto dame or drag queen. Peter Duncan is marvellous as Edna’s devoted husband Wilbur.

Whats10Hairspray. Credit Ellie Kurttz (2).jpg
I loved Claire Sweeney as Velma Von Tussle, partly because her haughty mannerisms reminded me a little of a friend of mine, but also because she was just so convincing as the sniffy television producer. She was well matched by Lauren Stroud as her bitchy daughter Amber.

But former X Factor star Brenda Edwards brings the house down as Motormouth Maybelle, particularly with her powerful rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’. It’s worth going, just for this. The dance chorus also stands out for its agility and energy.

Hairspray had a definite hold on the crowd last night… there was barely a bum left on a seat by the final number, and when Tracy shouted “come on Woking” she really needn’t have bothered. Woking was already up bouncing to the beat. And no wonder, it’s a fun night with a feel-good finish. So gather up your girlfriends, backcomb your hair and enjoy!

New Victoria Theatre, The Ambassadors, Peacocks Centre, Woking, GU21 6GQ, Tel: 0844 871 7645.

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