The Playhouse is a huge space to fill, not just bums on seats, but the performance levels required to reach the farthest away seats in the vast auditorium. Some shows falter and look lost but Hairspray rises to the challenge magnificently with enough energy left over to make a contribution to the National Grid.
For such a joyous musical, Hairspray, has rather serious themes of segregation, racism and body image but the writers ( Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell ) make their points deftly and humourously, never patronising the audience or the subject matter. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's tuneful score is always entertaining and really well played by a great pit band.
Laurie Scarth is terrific as Tracy, the big girl with a big voice and a bigger heart. Some West End eyebrows were raised high when Michael Ball was first cast as Tracy's mother but he is wonderful, warm and believable. Ball plays Edna as a fully-rounded, in more ways than one, woman, never insinuating to the audience that he is a bloke in a dress. Edna's vaudevillian, front-of-tabs, duet with hubby,Wilbur (played with a great sense of fun by Mickey Dolenz ) is just one of the highlights of the evening.
Another showstopping moment comes in Act 2 with the truly thrilling voice of Sandra Marvin singing the hell out of I Know Where I've Been. There are strong performances from Wayne Robinson as slick-hipped Seaweed, Liam Doyle as slick-haired Link, Danny Rayne as super-slick Corny Collins and especially Emma Dukes as plain, best friend Penny,who undergoes her own transformation.
An energetic and hard-working ensemble dance and sing up a storm in a fun-filled show, guaranteed to warm the coldest of hands (from all the applauding) and the coldest of hearts.