Theatre News

Belinda Carlisle & Phill Jupitus Star in Hairspray

Belinda Carlisle, former lead singer of 1980s girl group The GoGos, will make her West End debut alongside Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ comedian Phill Jupitus and Award winner Sharon D Clarke in the new cast of Hairspray, which takes over at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre on 26 October 2009, ahead of the introduction of Sunday performances from 8 November.

Jupitus takes over from Brian Conley in the cross-dressing role of Edna Turnblad, with Carlisle as Velma Von Tussle and Clarke as celebrity DJ Motormouth Mabel. Also joining the cast next month will be Tony Timberlake (as Wilbur Turnblad), Nicola Brazil (Amber Von Tussle) and Gavin Alex (Corny Collins).

Based on John Waters’ cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of geeky overweight teen Tracy Turnblad, 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.

Hairspray premiered in August 2002 on Broadway, going on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The UK production, which is also directed by Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, won the sweep of Best Musical prizes at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle, and Olivier Awards, amongst other accolades.

Belinda Carlisle as Velma Von Tussle

Phill Jupitus with his Edna alter-ego

Phill Jupitus as Edna Turnblad

Jupitus was seen in the West End last year in the one-man play Life Coach at Trafalgar Studios. He became a household name in 1996, when he joined BBC2’s pop quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks as a regular team captain. He was a regular on the national and London comedy circuits for 11 years. On screen, he’s appeared in Mike Bassett England Manager and, for five years until March 2007, he hosted the breakfast show on BBC6 Music.

As lead singer of the The GoGo, Belinda Carlisle was part of the first-ever girl group who wrote and played their own music to top the Billboard Charts in the US. After the band broke up in 1985, she had solo success with hits such as “Circle in the Sand”, “Leave a Light on for Me” and “Heaven Is a Place on Earth”. Her screen credits include the film Swing Shift and appearances on Dancing With the Stars in the US and Hell’s Kitchen.

Sharon D Clarke is well known to theatregoers from musicals including Chicago, The Lion King, Rent, Guys and Dolls and We Will Rock You, for which she won a Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Her TV credits include playing Dr Lolo Griffin on Holby City for three years.

The current Hairspray cast also features Chloe Hart (as Tracy Turnblad), Verity Rushworth (Penny), Liam Tamne (Link Larkin), Adrian Hansel (Seaweed) and Raquel Jones (Little Inez), who are all remaining with the show.