As previously tipped (See The Goss, 9 Mar 2007), the on-again, off-again Broadway transfer of Hairspray will at last receive its West End premiere this autumn, opening at the Shaftesbury Theatre in October.

While exact dates are still to be confirmed, a full-page advertisement in the programme for the Shaftesbury’s current resident, Fame - just opened last night (8 May 2007, previews from 4 May) and also produced by Stage Entertainment, the 1400-seat theatre’s new long-term leaseholder (See News, 27 Mar 2007) – confirms Hairspray for October 2007. An official announcement is due shortly, with booking expected to open by the end of this month.

Hairspray premiered in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, and went on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of geeky teen Tracy Turnblad - a big girl with a big heart, big dreams, a big stage mother and even bigger hair - who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can Tracy get the guy and still have time to change the world?

The stage musical has a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. It’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell.

Hairspray was originally tipped for a spring 2003 transfer to the West End’s Victoria Palace and, subsequently, was expected to open at the Cambridge Theatre in autumn 2005. Casting calls went out two years ago, but the 2005 opening was scrapped after reported problems transporting the set from North America.

No casting has yet been announced for the new West End offering, although amongst the names mentioned in connection with the cross-dressing part of Tracy’s mother Edna Turnblad have been Bob Hoskins, Ricky Gervais and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas. Harvey Fierstein originated the role of Edna on Broadway and, in this year’s upcoming film of the musical, John Travolta will drag up for the part. The film, due for a July release in the UK, will also feature Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken and Alison Janney.

Currently at the Shaftesbury, its fifth West End home, Fame’s limited summer season is due to finish on 1 September 2007. Stage Entertainment’s two-year lease of the venue commenced with its opening this week. The property deal is part of the Dutch company’s plans to substantially expand its portfolio in the UK. At present, in addition to Fame, the company is represented in the West End by Blue Man Group, which finishes its 19-month run at the New London Theatre on 24 June (See News, 27 Mar 2007).

- by Terri Paddock