Hairspray premiered in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, going 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 overweight teen Tracy, who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can she get the guy and still have time to change the world?
The 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. The film of the musical was released in the UK this summer. In addition to Ball and Jones, the cast includes Mel Smith, Tracie Bennett, Rachel Wooding, Paul Manuel, Adrian Hansel, Johnnie Fiori and Any Dream Will Do’s Ben Ellis.
It’s official! A critical hit for the Shaftesbury! Hairspray well and truly won over the first night critics yesterday as they welcomed the show that is “ecstatic” and “riotous”. Special praise was thrown on Michael Ball who was “deliciously fattened up and dragged down”, but newcomer Leanne Jones also caught the critic’s attention “with a talent as high and wide as her scooped-up hair”. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman didn’t escape the cascade of praise as their music and lyrics were commended for pulsating “with musical excitement as well as political anger”. The hit that has eluded the Shaftsbury for so long looks to have arrived as the audience glimpse what the critics consider is a truly entertaining production.
- by Tom Atkins & Katie Jackson