John Waters clearly has a keen sense of irony, if maybe stretched to the limit by his cult classic being a commercial hit. And surprisingly, it was based on true events: a Baltimore Radio Show stormed by white teens to join in the dancing on the day for black youngsters.
Also unusual: Tracey Turnblad (Freya Sutton’s remarkable debut) is an immediate success, from dancer to Miss Hairspray, despite opposition from the Ugly Sisters, the Von Tussles (well, mother and daughter: Lucy Benjamin and Gemma Sutton), but problems, social and personal, soon rear their ugly heads. You wonder too about some of the precarious staging: the Turnblad home is a rostrum so tiny it’d give HandS officers a fit, with two girls energetically dancing right in front of Mrs T busy ironing.
While raising serious issues such as integration, and veering between pc and stonkingly un pc (if true to the times), there are plenty of laughs; how could there not be with the comically grotesque character ‘Female Authority Figure’ (Wendy Somerville).
Again, a balance, with sensitive moments: Edna Turnblad (Mark Benton) may appear a pantomime dame but the scenes with husband Wilbur (Paul Rider) are as tender as her dreams. There’s another poignant romance between downtrodden BF Penny Pingleton (Lauren Hood) and talented Seaweed J Stubs (Marcus Collins, another amazing first timer) - but alas for Tracey: Luke Striffler’s Link Larkin seems pretty bland.
Curtain calls remind me of the classic school team selection; some of the actors receive a muted reception while the audience raised the roof for Sandra Marvin (Motormouth Maybelle).
But Hairspray is a musical with everything: candy colours; perky cast and plot; wholeheartedly energetic singing and dancing; for everyone; fans, old and new, were rapturous. And you can't argue with that or "Stop the Beat."