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12 Reviews

Production takes place at Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8DP

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    12 Reviews
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      27.06.2010 15:43

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      any age, any time this musical is bigger than hairspray

      December 2007: It was coming up towards my 16th birthday and we were going to be in London at the weekend (the day of my 16th was a Saturday) and my mum suggested to me that I shouldn't go shopping or sight-seeing but do something else in the afternoon to pass the time - so the week before my birthday my mum chose a musical for me to go and see I wanted it to be fun, happy and something I would be able to enjoy. On the day, my mum bought the tickets they came to a cost of one hundred and twenty pounds and I was like 'mum, how can you spend that much on tickets..I hope it better be a good show or it's a total waste of money!'
      my mum replied 'Don't worry it's a new show that's come out and it's suppose to be fun, happy and really good!'
      'What we going to see then.' I then asked and my mum answered 'hairspray - the film came out earlier this year!'
      I was so excited and it was starring west end star Michael Ball and director/comedian Mel Smith! Apparently Michael Ball was going to be a woman in drag!

      So my sweet 16th birthday came, and I was so excited about getting into London, we went pretty early so I could shop, sight-see, performance and meal all in one day.
      The performance was a matinee and i couldn't wait to see what Michael Ball would look like in drag!
      The musical was a fantastic way to celebrate my 16th it was big, huge, fun, happy lively and everything my mum mentioned when she bought the tickets! and it was worth every penny of the one hundred and twenty pounds of two tickets! I got the program too (which cost eight pounds) which would remind me of the great musical experience.
      The music/songs, set and characters made the show so big!
      Music score was done by Marc Shiman and lyrics were done by Scott Whittman
      songs included:

      Good morning Balitimore
      Mamma, I'm a big girl now
      you can't stop the beat
      It takes two
      Mormouth's revenge
      The Madison
      the nicest kids in town
      The big doll house
      big, blonde and beautiful

      cast:

      Edna Turnbald: Michael Ball
      Wilbur Turbald: Mel Smith
      Tracey Turnbald: leanne Jones
      Link: Ben James Ellis

      a big musical suitable for everyone of any age - tickets may be a lot of money but it's a show worth seeing!

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      06.06.2010 21:54
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      Go see something else!

      I saw Hairspray in March 2010 - and I was incredibly disappointed in its production. I've been an avid theatre goer for about the last 25 years, and I always tend to go to a production for the first time feeling positive and expecting to be entertained to a very high standard, particular in the West End. Hairspray has been hugely successful - and therefore in my mind it followed that it was going to be a very professional and polished production. I really didn't think it met the standard that I would expect.

      So, what was my problem with it. Well, don't get me wrong.....its not terrible, but it just isn't that good either. I'd seen the movie a couple of times and I always found it charming in its innocence and energy - and of course Rikky Lake was great in it - but somehow on stage it was just a little disconnected. It had the ambiance of a pantomime, and although there is nothing wrong with pantomime per se, I wouldn't pay £70 to go and see one and I certainly would only opt to go at Christmas with a couple of kids in tow.

      As the film of the same name, the story focuses on Tracy Turnblad, a 1960's overweight, likable and cheerful schoolgirl who, against the odds, becomes a dancer on the Corny Collins Show. Her experiences lead her to become aware of prejudice in the form of racism, and she invokes on a campaign to irradicate racism within Baltimore through music and dance. Typically, there is the ante-hero "Velma Von Tussle" who does her best to keep racial separation a reality. As a backdrop to the whole show is Tracy's desire to get the hunky Link Larkin to be her boyfriend - and we follow her as her dream becomes a reality.

      The story is identical to the film, yet I found most of the characters to be irritating rather than likable. The characters were very two dimensional and the lack of depth meant that I could not feel any connection to the characters and didn't really care what happened to them.

      The songs are identical to that in the film - and they are catchy and pleasant enough. Again, there was nothing that really stood out to me as fantastic or particularly memorable, but they were okay and easy listening.

      There were some decent performances though. Brian Connely was great as Edna Turnblad (Tracy's mother), as was Mickey Dolenz as Wilber Turnblad. Emma Dukes as Penny was very convincing and, for me, was probably the best performer of the night. Laurie Scarth as the lead character was just okay, but if I'm being honest, was a little screechy and uncharismatic.

      The set was unimaginative and tacky. With the sophistication that goes into sets these days, I couldn't help but think that it was very poor in comparison. It really didn't see much better than the scenery you might get in a good school production.

      Overall my main complaint was that it just didn't engage me. It was watchable....but unmemorable. I smiled - but it didn't move me. It felt like the actors were saying their lines and dancing their dances - but that they weren't really feeling what they were doing. They seemed as disconnected from themselves as I felt they were from the audience.

      All in all, I won't be seeing Hairspray again, and with so many other productions on offer, I would urge you to opt for something else!

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        01.05.2010 01:16
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        Nice show that could be a little more involving

        2007's film of Hairspray is one of my favourite musicals committed to film. For me, its a modern day Grease, full to the brim with catchy songs that capture the nostalgia of the sixties as well as an exhuberant energy that is as near flawless as a film can produce. I hadn't seen nor heard the stage version that has been playing in London for the past few years. However, I finally managed to see it tonight as the tour brought itself to Glasgow's Armadillo.

        The film it has to be said is almost seamlessly patched from the stage show on display. However, a little of the excitement was lost as it seemed a little unengaging on stage. The energy is still there, the songs are still catchy, but some of the narrative seemed flimsier without the back up of editing and more realistic settings. Perhaps, its true that you will always value more the first medium that you are told a story. A film is rarely as good as the book it is born from. This is also true if you have seen a musical film prior to seeing its stage version.

        The story is set in the sixties, in a time where being different was still a source of belittlement. We're first introduced to Tracy Turnblad as she wakes up for another day of high school, and another day of dreaming about becoming a famous dancer on a Baltimore TV show. The Corny Collins Show is her favourite, and she longs to be part of it, as well as harbouring an unrequited love for the heartthrob of the show Link Larkin.

        Finally, Tracy gets her dream though, much against the wishes of her overprotective mother. She gets a part on the show, and begins to wish for integration between the white's and the "negro's" who get a single day a month to dance on the alternative version of the program. Putting her little plan in peril is the wicked Velma Von Tussle, who thinks that a fat "communist" girl and a group of dancing negro's should not have a place in the show that she is responsible for producing.

        As the story goes on, Tracy engages the help of her parents to combat the racist attitude's and finds herself on the wrong side of the law. She finally captures the attention of Link, with able support from her best friend Penny. Together, they all stage protest against the treatment of the black's, and push the show towards making a decision about that treatment that could potentially lose the show its main sponsor.

        The stage show is a song and dance extravaganza that is as flawless as the film. The sets are colourful and technically superb. Even the performances are near note perfect, with some of them even drawing from the film performances. Tracie Bennett is so like Michelle Pfeiffer in voice and appearance that I wasn't entirely sure it wasn't her. Although Bennett's singing voice is far superior, and shines through on more than one number, the best of which is the bitchy "Legend Of Baltimore Crabs".

        It is Michael Ball who is outstanding though, and left me surprised by his camp and efficient performance as Edna Turnblad. Ball largely tones down his big voice to lend a feminine middle aged tone to proceedings, but still comes to life most when his voice is in familiar ground. There was a moment after the superb and surprisingly poignant duet "Your Timeless To Me" where himself and the flawless Les Dennis done a little improv, presumably to cover a hick up with the set. This was the moment that drew the most laughs from the audience, as things got a little saucy. Ball is a family entertainer by nature though, and none of the innuendo got out of hand for the minor's in the audience.

        As Tracy Turnblad, Laurie Scarth was a triumph. I'm not quite sure if there was some padding on there, but the way that girl moved was the highlight of the show, even if her voice seemed a little screechy at times. The only other negative of the show was that Liam Doyle didn't live up to Zac Efron's charisma and fell flat when he was required to sing. The actress, whose name I'm not sure of, who played Motormouth Maybell was also patchy in places. Her big notes left my neck hairs tingling, but there were times where she was slightly flat, and struggled to sing and dance at the same time.

        There is a huge amount of enjoyment to be had from Marc Sharman's musical score and the dance routine's. Like most musical's, there is little substance to the story, and the question of racial integration merely seems like a plot point to hang the songs upon. That said, the show itself never faltered, remained funny and enjoyable for the most part, and left the audience with a huge grin on their face. My main quibble is with a couple of the performances, and the fact that the finale seems so rushed. Perhaps the film version was stretched out slightly to even the pace, but on the back of seeing this, the stretch was required, and is sorely missed here. Tracy's potential victory over Amber is over before it has began, and its all wrapped up too nicely, even for the baddies. Having seen the film first, I think I was just a little in the cold by the efficient by-the-book production.

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          11.01.2010 17:53
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          A real feel good musical - with a real message to think about.

          I went to see Hairspray in London back in May when Michael Ball was the lead and can honestly say that I have never enjoyed myself so much. Sitting in the stalls , below the dress circle, the theatre felt like an intimate building. It was only when I went to get my ice cream during the interval that I realised how big Shaftesbury Theatre actually is.

          From the moment that the curtains opened and Tracey Turnblad (played by Leanne Jones) stood in her "bed" and sang "Good Morning Baltimore" I knew that we were in for a treat.

          The basic story is that Tracy is a large girl who wants to dance on a hit TV dance show. The story is set against a tale of apartheid in sxties America and is one of how dreams can turn into reality. Ben James Ellis (from the TV talent show "Any Dream Will Do") played the male lead role of Link Larkin whilst I was bowled over by the performance given by Verity Rushworth (latterly of Emmerdale fame) who took the role of Penny Pingleton - Tracey's best friend.

          But, of course, it was Michael Ball who stole the show with his larger than life portrayal of Edna - Tracey's mother. One member of the audience was heard to say "that Edna - she's not really fat is she - I saw her legs and they are quite trim". When I mentioned that the character was played by a man she was dumfounded!

          This is a tale of racial integration, a refusal to be bound by convention and having the courage to follow your dreams. The music is wonderfully joyful and the dancing is excellent. I enjoyed myself so much that I have booked to see the touring production of Hairspray when it hits Manchester.

          I recommend that you all get tickets if you can - its a riot!

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          05.08.2009 22:12
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          Dissapointing production of a great film

          I loved the original film version of Hairspray so was very excited to go and see the musical but I was very disappointed. The musical is based very closely on the film with very few changes to the story of Tracy Turnblad as a teenager who loves to dance and against all odds due to her larger size lives her dream of dancing on the Corry Collins show. There is of course a love story thrown in and a beauty queen bully who does all she can to destroy Tracey's chance for fame, love and happiness. I love the story, the music and dancing but found the stage version of this classic to be unpolished and amateurish in its performance. I didn't feel that any of the cast were very strong in dancing, singing or acting and was shocked at such a weak performance on a West End stage. The choreography was often messy and the baking dancers seemed to be all over the place. The leading cast members were weak vocally and didn't have the necessary stage presence for the West End stage. I am a huge fan of West End musicals and see as many as I can, I am generally amazed by the high quality and often see show's several times. However, I felt that Hairspray was a waste of both my time and money. I wouldn't recommend this musical to anyone, if you loved the film then I think you will find the musical very disappointing. If this had been a small local production I might have been impressed but this is not the quality I would expect from such a big show.

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          18.06.2009 17:25
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          Very Talented Cast

          Hairspray is on at The Shaftesbury Theatre London and if you love musicals that make you forget about the world outside and any problems you have- then book a ticket. It isn't cheap- I paid £65 for my stalls seat- but I am sure that must be more cost effective than a session with a therapist and must certainly do you as much good- if not more.

          It is very vibrant and colourful and great fun- some parts made me laugh out load - it also got feet tapping and bodies moving to the beat. Now I don't know you so I cannot say if it is your kind of music- which is a big part of the enjoyment of a musical-but Hairspray has it's own website- where you can watch and listen to some of the songs, as well as see backstage documentaries. That way you can check it out before you book.

          It is set in sixties America, where you will remember or know from your history lessons- there was, to say the least problems with racial issues. This is part of the story but don't be misled in thinking the tale is in any way "heavy". The main character is an overweight girl who loves to dance and the story is set around her- how she manages to stay overweight is beyond me as the energy on stage is phenomenal.

          For me however the star of the show was Michael Ball playing a substantially overweight American Mama- an amazing and deservedly award winning performance. Michael Ball will I believe be leaving the show in July 2009 and is being replaced by Brian Conley. I have seen Brian Conley in musicals before and whist I feel it will be a different performance- I also doubt it will be any less entertaining.

          Everyone in the theatre was dancing during the finale and as we left the theatre all you could see were smiles.

          I do have one complaint though- it ended-I wanted it to start all over from the beginning again.

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            17.05.2009 15:49
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            YOU CANT STOP THE BEAT

            For anyone who loves or even likes musicals, Hairspray is a must see musical. It is high energy, fast paced, superbly acted - it is a musical treat for the eyes and ears.

            For those that have not seen or heard of Hairspray, the basic premise of the film/show taken from Hairspray the Musical official website is; 'Its 1962 and times are changing, Tracys one passion is to dance, she wins a spot on the Corny Collins Show and overnight is transformed from an outsider to teen celebrity. But can a trendsetter in dance and fashion, vanquish the programes reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show, without denting her do? Only in hairspray! Welcome to the 60's!'

            I am a huge fan of musicals and so is my 7 year old daughter, i have loved the film Hairspray since i saw the original film starring Ricky Lake, Deborah Harry, Sonny Bono and Divine, i found it to be a wonderful film, the songs, the dancing all captured the essence of musical. My daughter discovered the joys of Hairspray from watching the film remake starring John Travolta, and the kids favourite Zac Efron (from High School Musical fame), this film was just as good as the original and brought to life the musical for a whole new generation.
            So from my passion for the film and my daughters, i decided to purchase tickets for her 7th birthday treat. I purchased a vip package with seats in the box, interval drinks and programmes, the seat tickets themselves probably worked out at about £40 each, they gave us a discount as it was for a birthday. The actual ticket prices in the theatre range from £22.50-£62.50. As much as we enjoyed the show i would not purchase a box again, as the view is obstructed so you miss parts of the show, although you can hear what is going on, you cannot see, so you feel as though you are missing out, with this said, the show was still amazing. From looking online there are deals to be had on tickets, and from going to many theatres over the years there are actually very few poor seats, even in the circles the seats are still good and the ticket prices for these are considerably cheaper than the stalls.

            From where we were sitting you were so close to the stage, you could see so much even the tiny microphones attached to the performers hair, the show is so vibrant and energetic, and it follows the film storyline almost perfectly, whereas shows like grease are altered considerably, although it has the same outline as the film it is adapted alot for the stage. Link Larkin is a heartthrob to all the young, my daughter and her friend thought he was amazing and when he waved to them that was just the icing on the cake. The songs are amazing, so full of life, all of them, i guarantee you will be singing or humming along when you leave.

            During the musical the cast interact with the audience, they appear throughout the stalls, popping up near the front row, and running through the theatre to get to the stage, this interaction brings the show to life, the Shaftsbury theatre like most in London are very intimate, and no matter where you are seated it feels as if they are performing just for you. Leanne Jones who plays Tracy is full of life and makes the performance her own, Ben James Ellis who plays Link Larkin is the perfect heartthrob, his performance brings out everything that Link is about, Verity Rushworth (Donna from Emmerdale) who plays Tracys friend Penny, is amazing, i never would have thought it, after playing Donna that she could transform into this ditsy, funny and loveable character who has an amazing voice and good comic timing, Nigel Planer who plays Wilbur is so funny and amazing, and his interaction with the star of the show Michael Ball who plays Edna, Tracys mum, is fabulous, they have perfect comic timng, they work together really well, there chemistry was magnificent. Michael Ball steas the show for all the older viewers, he is a professional of the highest calibre, everytime he came onto the stage everyone applauded, for the youngest the stars are Link and Tracy obviously as they do not really know who Michael Ball is and what he has acheived in musical theatre, to anyone wanting to go i would advise you to go and see the show before Michael Ball leaves in July.

            As for parking at the theatre, Hairspray haved teamed up with the ncp carpark and have a carpark right next door to the theatre, we always drive into London, so i cannot comment on any other forms of transport, we always make going to london a special day out, although we do live fairly near so it is not much of issue to drive into London for us.

            As for purchasing merchandise at the theatre, i always do, whether its a programme, t-shirt for my daughter etc, just budget this into your costs before you go, i have taken sweets in with me before as they can be quite expensive, the staff on the theatre door were doing security checks at the time and searching bags, i dont think they were searching for sweets as they never mentioned them.

            Just go and see this musical, you wont come away dissapointed.

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              05.05.2009 10:48
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              An asbolute must see in the West End - brilliant!

              Having always been a closet fan of Michael Ball, I really wanted to see this show before his exit in July this year. I had some cash for my birthday which I decided to spend on two tickets for me and my husband. At £62.50 per ticket (for a decent seat), I thought it was quite pricey, but I suppose that most of the West End shows are now in this kind of price range unless they are not selling enough tickets and have a sale.

              The theatre itself is nice and doesn't look dated or tired and the seats i the Royal Circle were excellent. The story focuses on Tracy Turnblad and her rather drippy friend Penny. There are so many different aspects to the story with Tracy's love interest Link Larkin, prejudice towards her because of her weight and wanting to dance, racial segregation (as it is set in Baltimore in the 60s) all of which, even though have a serious message, leave you smiling from ear to ear!

              The songs are extremely catchy and you will find yourself humming them for days afterwards. I would advise, they were selling the soundtrack from the Original Broadway cast at the theatre, for £15.00 and when I got home, they are selling the same CD on Play.com for £4.99 including free delivery! My favourite songs are definitely You Can't Stop the Beat, Good Morning Baltimore and Timeless to Me, although there wasn't a bad song amongst them.

              We had the stand in Link Larkin instead of Ben Ellis and also Wilbur was also played by the stand in and not Nigel Planer, but I have to say, the two actors were absolutely fantastic.

              I would recommend this show to absolutely anyone! I have seen quite a few shows now, and this is definitely up there in my top 5. It is a real feel good show that makes most people want to get up and dance!

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                27.03.2009 21:36
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                Fast paced, well cast, upbeat show, that I cant praise enough - a real must see.

                I was lucky enough to see this show a couple of weeks after it opened and again 3 weeks ago. There have been some changes but nothing too drastic.

                The cast have also changed slightly but this does not detract from the show, if anything it probably keeps it fresh. Nigel Planer is now playing Wilbur and Verity Rushworth (Donna Dingle from Emmerdale - who knew she could sing so well) has taken over the role of Penny Pingleton.

                The story revolves round Tracy Turnblad (played wonderfully by Leanne Jones) and her friend Penny, her parents Wilbur and Edna (played fantastically by Michael Ball). Tracy is a big girl with big dreams and the show follows her journey as she fulfils these dreams - mainly making the man of her dreams Link Larkin (played with such energy by Ben James-Eillis, who was one of the final Joseph's in the TV show) realise that she is the girl of his dreams whilst in between times overcoming other people's prejudices.

                The first time I saw the show I had no idea of the story and was a little taken aback at some of the terminology used, mainly with regard to the race issues, but this story is set in a time where segregation was accepted. I thought it handled a really sensitive issue in a positive and upbeat way and before you know it you are caught up in the story.

                As was said in a previous review you do smile so constantly you will have sore cheeks when you leave the theatre, although there are many thought provoking moments.

                The songs are very catchy and you will be humming them for the rest of the night. Motormouth Maybelle's song 'I Know Where I've Been' is a truly powerful moment of the show, and when I last saw the show, this part was played by Sandra Marvin who had an enormously powerful voice and was excellent although she was one of the understudies.

                Michael Ball is wonderful as Edna, and I believe many of his fans complained to the box office in the first few weeks of the show that he was not in it, as they had not recognised him as the costume/make up etc was so good.

                I was disappointed in the film as they cut a couple of songs which are sung in the show, in particular 'Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now'.

                This definately works better as a live show than a film as you really absorb the energy from being there, so if you liked the film you will love the live show.

                Michael Ball finishes his run as Edna on 25th July 2009, so catch him if you can although the rest of the cast are so strong I am sure it will be just as good with his replacement, who as of yet has not been named.

                Seat prices range from £22.50 - £62.50, I have sat in both the cheapest and dearest seats and would say that I enjoyed the show equally from both seats, so if all you can get is a cheaper seat then take it as you dont want to miss this and it is worth every penny.

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                  11.03.2009 14:39
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                  Worth Every Penny!!!

                  Ever since I first saw the film of Hairspray, I have been a massive fan and so I was really excited when my friend got me a ticket to the stage production for my birthday (including an ice cream in the interval, result!!). The show is currently on at the Shaftesbury Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, near both Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road tube stations.

                  Ticket Price:

                  Hairspray is one of the more expensive musicals, with tickets around £50. However my friend got an offer through the Metro newspaper which meant we got our tickets for £37. Obviously last minute deals, seat positions etc cause prices to vary.

                  Plot:

                  The show is set in 1962 in the racially segregated town of Balimore in America. The main character is Tracy Turnblad, an overweight school girl with dreams; the dance on TV, to marry heartthrob Link Larkin and to integrate white and black people. When one of the dancers on Tracy's favourite TV programme- The Corny Collins Show- has to "go away for 9 months", Tracy auditions and despite the best efforts from the show's producer Velma Von Tussel to dismiss her, Corny takes a shine and puts her on his show. After making friends with a young black dancer, Seaweed, in detention, Tracy is on a mission to integrate the black and white societies and plans to do so on the national "Corny Collins" special, by bringing all her new friends along to the recording. However the show's producers will do everything they can to stop her.....

                  Cast:

                  The main cast list is as follows:

                  Michael Ball- Edna Turnblad
                  Nigel Planer- Wilbur Turnblad
                  Leanne Jones- Tracy Turnblad
                  Ben James-Ellis- Link Larkin
                  Verity Rushworth- Penny Pingleton
                  Liz Robertson- Velma Von Tussel
                  Zoe Rainey- Amber Von Tussel
                  Adrian Hansel- Seaweed

                  I have to say, I thought the cast were absolutely brilliant. Leanne Jones is outstanding as Tracy and does not overact, as theatrical leads do tend to do sometimes. Michael Ball and Nigel Planer were hilarious as Tracy's parents and I was pleasantly surprised by Verity Rushworth (Donna Windsor in Emmerdale)- who knew she had such an amazing voice?! All the cast portrayed thoroughly likeable characters, and the Von Tussels as the "bad guys" really worked the comedic sides of their characters. I was also very impressed with the American accents, and nobody's sounded bad at all!

                  Songs:

                  All of the songs from the Hairspray film were in the musical including "Good Morning Baltimore" (my personal favourite!), "Welcome to the 60s", "I Can Hear the Bells" and "You Can't Stop the Beat" and there were several other songs that were omitted from the film. The songs are what makes this musical so great, they are so upbeat and you cant help but smile. The cast are all fantastic singers and really bring atmosphere to what they are singing. The dancing is also fantastic and each routine really suited the song. It is a couple of days later and I still have the songs going round my brain, they are that catchy so Beware!

                  Production:

                  Production was very smooth and the backgrounds were used very effectively. Several mini scenes ran across the stage and it all worked really well.

                  Musical VS Film

                  As much as I loved the film, the musical is miles better, I think because you get the atmosphere that you don't on screen. The finale of "You Cant Stop the Beat" was truly spectacular and all of the audience were on their feet dancing along, then giving a standing ovation when the actors took their bows. The musical also plays on the script's humour, and is much funnier than the film. The duet between Edna and Wilbur Turnblad "You're Timeless To Me" was particularly funny in our performance as both actors got a case of the giggles and ended up ad-libbing a bit!

                  My Opinion:

                  I cant say enough positives!! Me and my friend sat in the theatre with massive grins on our faces the whole way through, and I realised on the train home how much my cheeks hurt!! The only downside is that I don't know whether I will appreciate the film quite so much anymore!! Brilliant actors, brilliant songs and a brilliant atmosphere- it is not wonder that Hairspray won 4 different "Best Musical" awards in 2008!

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                    03.03.2009 16:44
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                    An energetic and fun family show

                    I first went to see Hairspray at The Shaftesbury Theatre in December 2007. Being on a school trip and having spent most of the night before partying in the hotel, I was not particularly awake when I went to see the show and didn't pay much attention! However, when I went to see the show again in mid 2008, I enjoyed it a lot more as I actually watched it properly!

                    The great thing about Hairspray is it is so highly energetic and fun. The vibrant, colourful characters make it great to watch, and a wonderful story to follow. There was barely anyone left sitting down at the end of the show during 'You Can't Stop the Beat'.

                    Michael Ball really shone in his role as Edna, and the duet 'You're Timeless to Me' with Mel Smith was hugely entertaining and very funny.
                    I also felt that Leanne Jones made an impressive debut as Tracy - she really brought the character to life and made the story believable.
                    Ben James Ellis played a great Link Larkin and Johnnie Fiori was sensational as Motormouth Maybelle.

                    Without wanting to spoil the ending too much for you - the 'explosive' final number of the show was fantastic and exciting to watch even though I knew how the show was going to end!

                    I would recommend 'Hairspray' to anyone who wants a fun, feel-good night at the theatre - you won't be disappointed.

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                    15.02.2009 21:28
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                    The musical Hairspray is a West End hit

                    Hairspray is a musical which has become popular recently following the smash hit movie staring John Travolta. It has been on Broadway and is currently enjoying a successful run on the West End in London which is where we went to see it last month.

                    For those of you who don't know the storyline, Hairspray is set in the early 1960's in Baltimore, USA. Tracy Turnblad is an outgoing school girl with big hair and a love of dance. She longs to star in her favourite TV dance programme "The Corny Collins Show" and dance opposite her heartthrob Link Larkin. However Tracy's larger figure doesn't not go down well with the shows producer. Will Tracy's dancing skills win the day and will she win the heart of Link, you need to go to find out. Thrown in with this light story is also a more thought provoking look at the issues with the segregation of blacks and whites in those times and the breaking down of those barriers.

                    I had watched the film and enjoyed the singing and dancing and thought it would be nice to go and see it when we were in London. The musical is being shown in Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Avenue. Heading to the theatre there were crowds of people outside making their way in. What seemed to be holding people up were that they were checking peoples bags as you entered and then labelling them as being checked. None of the other theatres we attended did this but it was maybe just their security policy, we all managed to make our way through were directed towards our seats. As we were already seeing two other shows during this trip to London we had opted to get some cheaper tickets for Hairspray (we paid £25.50 each) and were seated up in the Grand Circle. You do feel very high up (not for those who suffer from vertigo) and quite far away from the stage but you still get a good view of what is going on.

                    The curtain lifts and the first number "Good Morning, Baltimore" begins with Tracy Turnblad waking and singing from her vertical bed on stage! So begins the show and a whole host of catchy songs, dancing and great music.

                    The costumes and hair in this production are amazing. The show uses 175 wigs and the cast get through 80 cans of hairspray a week. The hair needs to stay in place well as the dancing can be quite energetic at times! You really feel you are being transported back to the 1960s with a combination of the music, the outfits and the hairstyles. I think this shows it is such a successful musical because you get lost in the moment and forget where you are.

                    The scenery is somewhat more simple compared to some of the other West End shows. Much of the scenery is pushed on and fairly basic just to act as a backdrop rather than an integral part of the show. However the show has such good singing and dancing the scenery doesn't really matter.

                    On the day we went Tracy Turnblads was played by the alternate however she did the role really well. Her character is great fun, she comes across as full of energy and fun and love for music. She also has a love of justice and a desire to do what is right. The role is usually played by Leanne Jones who was a newcomer to the West End having previously worked in a bank before landing the lead role. Link Larkin is played by Ben James-Ellis who many will know as one of the semi finalists in the television series "Any Dream Will Do" searching for the new Joseph.

                    Michael Ball makes an amazing transformation into Edna Turnblad, it takes the hair and make-up team over 2 hours to complete the look. You wouldn't know it was him to look at. He plays the role really well and brings a great sense of fun and humour to the show.

                    I really did enjoy this show, its fun, got great music and dancing and is a really pleasant way to spend an evening or an afternoon. If you enjoyed the film then you will definitely enjoy the musical, it's a nice feel good show that you can't stop yourself from bopping along to the music! If you want to see it I would recommend going before April 2009 if you can as that's when Micheal Ball has signed up to performing until.

                    The performances are on a Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm and on a Thursday and a Saturday at 3pm.

                    The show lasts for 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute interval.

                    Micheal Ball is not playing the role of Edna Turnblad on Monday evenings. For the times when he is on holiday check the website www.hairspraythemusical.co.uk.

                    Tickets cost from £22.50 to £62.50.

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