Review: Hairspray @ WMC

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Hairspray follows teenager Tracy Turnblad as she helps the town of 1962 Baltimore integrate blacks and whites. Through stereotypes, petty insults, and jail time, Tracy does all she can to make the world realise that segregation is wrong.

As a massive fan of the film and the live TV performance, I was a bit sceptical about whether it would live up to my expectations. Undoubtedly, the show lived up and even exceeded my expectations; it was absolutely phenomenal! Everything from the sets to the singing to the costumes had me smiling, giggling, and even tearing up with laughter throughout the entire duration of the show.

One thing I was worried about beforehand was the changes that would be made to the story – which is inevitable with any adaptation – but the addition of new songs and comedy, for example, just heightened the performance and experience more. However, there was quite a bit of adult humour in the show which definitely left the young children in the audience confused as to why everyone was laughing.

The energy of all the cast members was astounding! Throughout each scene no one tired or stopped for a breath (which was shocking because I know I would have lost all air in my lungs after the second number). The dancers put their all into each and every scene and they were all in unison, which shows the effort they must have put into the countless rehearsals and every show.

The on point character portrayal led to some wonderful dance routines and emotion in scenes. When Motormouth Maybelle sang the soulful ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ my eyes began tearing up from the pain and pure emotion in her voice. This song showcased that there is still a lot of racial struggle in the world and it showed the pain she had for what blacks have gone through throughout history. Regardless of the adaptation, this story really shows the racial bias in the world.

In addition, towards the end of the show, when the contestants are dancing for the title of Miss Teenage Hairspray, there is a lot of audience participation. Velma Von Tussle walked through the crowd telling everyone to watch her daughter Amber while she danced on stage and was shouting at everyone to stop when Tracy entered and started singing ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’, which is a perfect representation of the character as it is something Velma would definitely do. This, at first, confused me, but it left me in stitches when I realised what was happening.

I was shocked to read that it was Rebecca Mendoza’s theatre debut because she played the role of Tracy phenomenally. Although you could tell she was a bit nervous at the very beginning, she quickly came to herself and she looked so comfortable on stage, like she was meant to be there.

Everything in conjunction with each other made for the perfect performance! Even small details like the rats around Tracy’s feet during ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ and the announcement of “It’s 1962, no mobile phones, no recording” at the beginning made for an unforgettable experience. There were even parts included in the programme about the original film, Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama as the first black President, Rosa Parks, and the original Corny Collins. However, I have to say my favourite part was at the end where Tracy exclaimed “let’s dance Cardiff!” Everyone was up on their feet already, giving a standing ovation, so everyone began dancing along with the cast as they carried on with the last song and bowed.

The clapping, whistling, and whooping coming from every corner of the room (at the end and after every song) filled me with even more joy and I came out of that theatre astounded and amazed with the performance they put on. I would happily go and watch it again and would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

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