Hairspray, Manchester Palace Theatre – Review

I’m dead. Call an undertaker because I’m dead. Hairspray has killed me. I’m finished. It was so goddamn effing gooooooooood I can’t even handle it!

Oh yes! Hairspray’s UK tour is currently at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 31 October and if you don’t go you’re a bigger fool than the people who thought it was unacceptable for the black folk to dance on TV when it wasn’t Negro Day!

I can’t stress how much I want you to go see it! I have all of the warm fuzzies and I’m still buzzing from it the day after – it was incredible.

My Twitter looked something like this last night: ‘HAIRSPRAY WAS AMAZING! I’m never getting over it! I can hear the frickin bells!’ Followed by tweets to almost every cast member telling them how much life they give me. Playing it cool had gone straight out of the window and I was fangirling like hell. I know I said that Hairspray killed me but I was LIVING!

When I first found out Hairspray was coming to Manchester I didn’t want to see it – I NEEDED to see it! And then I found out that Brenda Edwards (X Factor, circa 2005) was playing Motormouth Maybelle and I almost spontaneously combusted with excitement!

Brenda was on the X Factor during my formative years when I was discovering my gayness and her attitude literally played a part in shaping who I am today, so you can imagine my excitement. And honestly she did not disappoint!

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Brenda not only blew my mind, she blew my socks and the roof of the theatre off with ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’. She was phenomenal. I never knew I missed her so much until she strutted onstage to sass Claire Sweeney, who also amazingly played Velma Von Tussle, the deliciously evil racist TV producer. She was sassy and in charge and knew who she had to roll over (or under) to get ahead. She sounds like me, except she probably gets sex.

Freya Sutton reprised her role as the desperately in love ‘chubby communist’ Tracy Turnblad, and she did it so well! I instantly fell in love with her and daaaaaaaaaaaaaaayum that girl can move and isn’t afraid to grab a hot guy’s face and stick her tongue in his mouth on live television.

It was kinda Jacob Black and Bella Swan, except Link didn’t break his hand punching Tracy in the face. I also wished she’d lamp Amber Von Tussle (Lauren Stroud) right in her perfect face because she was a total witch! It takes a certain amount of skill to play a villain that I’d want to sit with at lunch but she did it. What a great arsehole!

And the Turnblads! Bless their souls! Peter Duncan and Benidorm’s Tony Maudsley filled the roles of Wilbur and Edna Turnblad, and filled is definitely what they did. It actually took me a while to warm to them but I think it might be my bias towards Christopher Walken and John Travolta for their movie roles. They had so much heart!

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Duncan as Wilbur, being the absolute sweetheart that he is, and Maudsley taking on a Divine-esque characterisation for Edna was incredible, and they had such tangible chemistry together. ‘You’re Timeless To Me’ was quite the musical number to behold, and it was hilarious to boot.

I’mma talk about Link Larkin now. Bear in mind I’ve never had the opportunity to see Hairspray on the stage before so I’d only seen the movie. Ashley Gilmour had to fill the very large, ridiculously sexy boots of Zac Efron, and at first I was a bit like, ‘Meh, you ain’t no Troy Bolton.’ But after he sang ‘It Takes Two’, I was totally onboard. Those 1960s high-waisted trousers and coiffed up hairstyles, lawd help me! There’s only so moist I can figuratively get.

Ashley was an absolute peach! I wish he’d sing to me and give me his council ring. Absolutely appalled that ‘Ladies’ Choice’ isn’t in the actual show, though. I was ready to get my rocks off and to steal the ladies’ choice from right out under their noses but I couldn’t. I settled for ‘Without Love’, agreeing with him when he said, ‘On the outside I looked good.’ Yes. Yes, you did.

And now can we just talk about Penny Pingleton please? Monique Young brought Penny to life and brought me to life as well. She’s my MVP for Hairspray… She sparkled.

From shy, repressed sidekick to taking-names-and-snatching-weaves checkerboard chick, Monique was outstanding and played Penny’s character flawlessly. And that voice! And that transformation! If she hadn’t started singing in ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ and grinding on Seaweed (Dex Lee), I would never have known, and I could tell the feeling was unanimous from the gasps in the audience. I want to be her BFF.

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Okay, so I’ve used 800 words just talking about the cast, I need to talk about other things too! The music, first of all! I immediately tip my hat to the band. To keep the energy up the whole way through every song was amazing and having them at the back of the Corny Collins TV set raised at the rear of the stage was brilliant. I like watching masters at work.

The costumes were incredible. There was so much colour, and so many high-waisted trousers and glittery and pastel coloured suits, specifically Motormouth Maybelle’s leopard-print jumpsuit and Corny Collins’ tangerine suit.

And finally, choreography – the dancing was INSANE! So much hip-wiggling and brazen boob-rubbing! It was brilliant. The Peyton Place After Midnight was great to see in the flesh! Shout out to Dex Lee for his moves because holy-hot-damn-yasss-queen Seaweed, give it to me!


Tickets are available on the ATG website and it is showing until 31 October at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.

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