“Big hair, big heart, big fun.” These words are currently written in big letters above the Bristol Hippodrome while Hairspray is playing inside the theatre and they perfectly sum up this wonderful feel-good show. It is impossible to fault, with not just big hair, big heart and big fun, but also big songs, big laughs and even bigger personalities.
When a West End show announces that it will be touring to the regions, it is normally extremely unlikely that its London star will join the production. So it is a sign of the brilliance of Hairspray that Michael Ball (right), one of the country’s leading musical theatre stars, has reprised his role as Edna Turnblad.
Ball is also associate producer for Hairspray’s first UK tour, and he is joined by Micky Dolenz, who sold more than 65 million albums worldwide as lead singer of The Monkees, the original precursor of the modern boyband.
It was obvious that Ball and Dolenz were having a whale of a time on stage together. Their duet Timeless To Me was a highlight of an evening of highlights, and saw them cheered off to the loudest whoops of the night.
For those unfamiliar with Hairspray, it is the story of a young girl Tracy Turnblad (Laurie Scarth), not in possession of a size-zero figure, who wants to win a place in the dance lineup of hit Baltimore TV show, The Corny Collins Show.
The action is set against the beginning of the 60s, with the advent of rock and roll and youthful rebellion, and also directly confronts the issue of colour segregation, with Tracy a trailblazer in integration against some decidedly traditional attitudes.
Some serious issues are confronted, but Hairspray is not a history lesson, rather a delightfully camp romp with the Bristol cast more than matching the cast of the latest movie version (John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron et al) and easily surpassing them in the comedy stakes, with numerous laugh-out-loud moments.
Hairspray started life as a 1988 film starring Ricki Lake as Tracy. It began on Broadway in 2002 and was turned into a second movie in 2007.
Its huge popularity is such that there were a number of big-haired Tracy Turnblad lookalikes at the Hippodrome on opening night, ready to enjoy one of the best evenings you will have at the theatre this year.
Hairspray is at the Bristol Hippodrome until April 30. Click here for more information.