Hairspray - the Musical at New Wimbledon Theatre
This dazzling and energetic revival of the musical based on the original John Waters' film, Hairspray, is a real delight. It drew a well-deserved standing ovation from the audience at its first outing here.
The show's strength lies not only in the way it lends itself to 1960s-style song and dance but also in that it comes with a tough moral edge. The theme of confronting and ultimately defeating racism and prejudice through a revolution in culture as well as heartfelt protest against injustice remains as relevant as ever.
But its message is put across with a great deal of fun and humour, which never fails to entertain in this tale of teenager Tracy Turnblad's mission to overcome 1960s American racial segregation by getting black and white people dancing together on live TV.
Full credit is due to a committed cast who tirelessly dance and sing their way through one catchy number after another. The show never flags and the quality of some performances is great. Some excellent voices and agile and expressive dancing are in evidence.
I was going to say forget about X Factor, this is the real deal - until I realised that Brenda Edwards, who appears as Motormouth Maybelle, owes her career to the TV show. Nevertheless, she is the real deal here, putting in a star turn.
Otherwise Claire Sweeney, in fantastic singing voice, puts in a sparkling performance as the malevolent Velma von Tussle, while Tony Maudsley is simply brilliant as Tracy's mother Edna.
Tony brings some light and dark and genuine pathos to the character - it's so much more than simply a hammed-up drag act. He is marvellously countered by Peter Duncan as husband Wilbur. One of the highlights of the show is a very comical and touching duet between the two.
Freya Sutton makes a very engaging, hugely likeable and credible Tracy Turnblad, bringing some explosive energy to the part.
Jon Tsouras impresses as TV show host Corny Collins, Ashley Gilmour as singing beau Ashley Gilmour and Dex Lee as Maybelle's son Seaweed. Young Lee should be one to watch - he was in good voice, with great stage presence and popular with the audience.
Lauren Stroud does well as Amber von Tussle, one of the villains of the piece, while honourable mentions go to Monique Young, Karis Jack, Tracey Penn and Adam Price for their roles. Of the rest of the hardworking cast, the three Dynamite girls were wonderfully evocative of a 1960s all-girl group of singers.
All in all, a hugely enjoyable night out - catch it if you can.
By Roger Smith
November 3, 2015