Review: Hairspray @ Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

By November 11, 2015

Theatre & Dance. Bradford.

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

The hit Broadway musical Hairspray portrays the very serious matter of racial inequality within society in America in the 1960’s through fabulously good singing, dancing and humour. This is a show to make John Waters the original writer of the 1988 film version proud.

The current tour’s producer Mark Goucher has succeeded in creating a show that is both educational and highly entertaining. The message of striving to break down prejudices in body image and racism are still as important throughout the world today as they were back in the racially turbulent 60’s America.

‘Think big to be big’ is the motto of the main character Tracy Turnbland played by Freya Sutton; big dress size, big hair and a big voice to match. Her character is determined to be on her much-loved teen dance TV show but has to break through body image narrow-mindedness to do so.

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Tony Maudsley plays a larger-than-life comic turn as Edna Turnbland with Peter Duncan as ‘her’ husband Wilbur Turnbland, a great comedy duo as the parents of Tracy Turnbland. Claire Sweeney plays a very strong character with Shirley Bassey-esque power as Velma Von Tussle the Corny Collins TV show’s racist and body fascist producer. Brenda Edwards (2005 X Factor semi-finalist) plays Motormouth Maybelle with ease and such a powerful voice. Dex Lee as ‘Seaweed’ was another standout performer with his excellent dancing and acrobatic skills.

The sets are true to the 60’s vibe with plenty of colour and imagination – the ‘Corny Collins TV Show’ set has a huge vintage TV backdrop topped with a fabulous eight-piece orchestra. The music, singing and dancing was faultless throughout, with an energy pace which was truly breath-taking. The excellent performances by the whole cast were certainly appreciated by the Bradford crowd who gave a standing ovation at the end. A show not to be missed!

Reviewed by Diana Gagic on 10 November at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford where Hairspray runs until 14 November before touring. For more info see