Review: Hairspray The Musical - You can't stop, and won't want to stop, the beat

Matt Rixon is Edna Turnblad in Hairspray
Matt Rixon is Edna Turnblad in Hairspray
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BIG, bold and beautiful, painted in the broadest of brushstrokes that radiate joy and rainbow colours, Mark Goucher's new production of Hairspray is a life-affirming experience.

* * * * *

THE PLAYHOUSE, Greenside Place

Much of this stems from the drive and energy the brilliant Rebecca Mendoza brings to the role of Tracy Turnblad and the chemistry she shares with those around her.

Note perfect, fleet of foot, and charming all with her childlike innocence, Mendoza is destined for great things.

As the central character of the piece; a 'hair-hopper' determined to dance on her favourite TV programme The Corny Collins Show, she battles not just the prejudices that confront her, but those that insist the show remains segregated. This is Baltimore in the late 50s and early 60s after all, where racial integration is not to be encouraged.

Based on John Waters' cult 1988 movie, the part of Edna Turnblad, Tracy's mother, is traditionally played by a male, upholding the legacy of the role's originator, Divine.

Matt Rixon brings a natural charm to his larger-than-life creation, seldom without a twinkle in his eye and quip to raise a smile. He forms a great double act with Norman Pace as a permanently bemused, bewildered and befuddled Wilbur Turnblad - the pair risk stealing the show in their duet, You're Timeless to Me, which is both beautifully tender and eye-wateringly funny.

All are well supported by a strong ensemble who play the sharp, irreverent and frequently non-PC script to its brutal strengths, they're rewarded with howls of laughter throughout, as well as the odd shocked gasp.

Special mention must go to Annalise Liard-Bailey whose Penny Pingleton shares an easy rapport with best pal Tracy and provides an engaging sub-plot. Brenda Edwards too, is in powerful voice as Motormouth Maybelle.

If the females of the company are on fire from the infectious opening number, Good Morning Baltimore, it takes some of the males the first act to warm up, when they do, Layton Williams' Seaweed and Edward Chitticks' Link Larkin match their counterparts note for note.

Bright and uplifting, Takis' set and costume design is exquisite and expertly complimented by Philip Gladwell's clever lighting. Direction by Paul Kerryson ensures the pace never drops and Drew McOnie's choreography flows nicely and is of the era.

This is one production that ensures that, not only, can't you stop the beat, there is absolutely no reason why you might want to.

Run ends 17 March