When the team at the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent got in touch to offer me press tickets to the opening night of Hairspray, I found myself in a bit of a quandary. Whilst I had seen the 2007 movie, and knew that I would enjoy the stage show, I was also not sure how suitable the content would be for the 8 year old geekdaughter. After all it covers racial divide, weight issues and teenagers falling in love, stuff I’m really not sure I’m ready for her to know about yet. So I did what any self-respecting parent does these days, and asked my Facebook friends what they thought. Thankfully for her, they all came back to say they thought it was entirely suitable for an 8 year old, so I swallowed my prudish tendencies and agreed that we would attend.
On Monday night we turned up at the theatre, she very excited, me slightly apprehensive, and wondering if I’d done the right thing to take her out on a school night. I needn’t have worried – we both had a great time and really enjoyed the show.
For those who don’t know the story of Hairspray, it is set in the 1960s and centres on overweight Baltimore teenager, Tracy Turnblad, who dreams of dancing on the popular television show The Corny Collins Show. She gets rejected when she auditions, due to her size, but meets and falls in love with one of the show’s male dancers, Link Larkin. At school detention Tracy meets up with a group of black kids, learns their way of dancing, and decides they should be allowed to dance on Corny’s show every day, not just once a month on “Negro Day”. Tracy and Link lead the campaign for equality against the television station. It’s a larger-than-life show with great songs and a real feel-good atmosphere, and whilst it doesn’t take itself too seriously it does have some serious messages about equality and acceptance.
The geekdaughter followed the story with no problems, and the few “double entendres” that were thrown in (comments about a “stiff one” or mentions of a “rubber”) went right over her head. I sat down with her before the show started to explain a bit about the history of segregation, and she rolled her eyes at me and said “Mum I know this – it was on Blue Peter!”. That was me told then!
The cast of the Hairspray UK Tour worked their socks off. Freya Sutton shone as Tracy Turnblad and reminded me very much of Nikki Blonsky from the film. It was a great excitement for me to see Peter Duncan in the role of Wilbur Turnblad (I had to explain to the geekdaughter who he was), and goodness me he can still move well! I hadn’t heard of Matt Rixon before, but he made a great Edna Turnblad, and there was great chemistry between him and Peter Duncan (it’s traditional in Hairspray that this character is played by a man). Claire Sweeney was brilliant as the scheming show producer Velma Von Tussle, and she built a great rapport with the audience. In fact the whole cast had the audience on their side from the very start – the atmosphere was great. By the end they had earned themselves a standing ovation, and it was actually the geekdaughter that pulled me to my feet! We all danced along to “You Can’t Stop The Beat”, and clapped and cheered when it finished. It was great to see the theatre packed for opening night, and I am sure Hairspray is going to have a great run at the Regent.
Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets for Hairspray for review purposes. All words and opinions are my own.