"You can try to stop my dancin' feet"
This mahoosive new tour of Hairspray
started in the middle of last month and stretches right through to June 2018 and it certainly feels like it has the potential to be a great success. There are some cracking performances which really elevate Paul Kerryson's production of this most effective of shows (music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan) and choreography from hot-shot of the moment Drew McOnie.
And given how dance heavy Hairspray is, it is an astute move from Kerryson as McOnie's inventive use of movement establishes and reinforces so much of the febrile mood of simmering racial tension and potential societal change. In the hands of the likes of Layton Williams' Seaweed and an effervescent ensemble, it's hard to keep a smile from your face as the sheer toe-tapping enthusiasm of it all as fabulous group numbers shake and shimmy their way across the stage.
Slight reservations about men taking women's parts aside (*cough* Craig Revel-Horwood *cough*), Matt Rixon's Edna is sensitively portrayed in locating real heart within the broader character moments, and Gina Murray's Velma is a vivacious villain against her. And it is hard not to be thoroughly impressed by Brenda Edwards' ferocious vocal performance as Motormouth Maybelle - really selling the weight of the socially conscious material.
But for all that I enjoyed, I couldn't help but feel that the central couple here are still feeling their way into the show. Rebecca Mendoza is making her professional debut as Tracey Turnblad and she does do well in establishing a genial stage presence. Her singing voice doesn't quite match up to the full breadth of Tracey's ballsy confidence at the moment, similarly Edward Chitticks doesn't have the full measure of Link Larkin's innate charisma yet - as the tour progresses though, you can imagine they may well yet both grow further into their roles.
Given the length of the tour, I can easily see myself going back to reassess Mendoza and Chitticks, such is the joy of the production around them. And it is a real pleasure to see the work of one of our brightest choreographers in Drew McOnie proudly taking centre stage across the country, not just in a London where his reputation is deservedly fixed.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 9th September,then touring to...
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin 11 September - 16 September 2017
Winter Gardens, Blackpool 18 – 23 September 2017
Sunderland Empire Theatre 25 September – 30 September 2017
King’s Theatre, Glasgow 2 October – 7 October 2017
Birmingham Hippodrome 9 October – 14 October 2017
Leicester Curve 16 – 21 October 2017
Buxton Opera House 23 October – 28 October 2017
Belfast Grand Opera House 30 October – 4 November 2017
Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury 6 November – 11 November 2017
Sands Centre, Carlisle 13 November – 18 November 2017
Bradford Alhambra 20 November – 25 November 2017
G-Live, Guildford 27 November – 2 December 2017
Theatre Royal Plymouth 15-20 January 2018
Mayflower Southampton 22-27 January 2018
Sheffield Lyceum 29 January - 3 February 2018
Eden Court, Inverness 5-10 February 2018
Theatre Royal, Nottingham 13-24 February 2018
Wolverhampton Grand 26 February - 3 March 2018
Bristol Hippodrome 5-10 March 2018
Edinburgh Playhouse 12-17 March 2018
His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen 19-24 March 2018
Opera Theatre, Manchester 26 March - 7 April 2018
Milton Keynes Theatre 9-14 April 2018
Liverpool Empire 16-21 April 2018
Hull New Theatre 23-28 April 2018
Venue Cymru, Llandudno 30 April - 5 May 2018
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury 8-12 May 2018
Cliffs Pavilion, Southend 14-19 May 2018
Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe 21-26 May 2018
Cheltenham Everyman 29 May - 3 June 2018