The Marc Shaiman musical made it’s Broadway debut in 2002 and ever since has wowed audiences all over the world on stage and screen (who can forget John Travolta as Edna Turnblad?) with its music, its songs and its message.
It follows Tracy Turnblad (played by Lizzie Alderton) as she follows her dream to dance on the Corny Collins Show – and with Link Larkin (Dominic Batchelor). When she wins a role on the show, Tracy becomes a celebrity overnight and campaigns for integration on the show. She is supported by her parents Edna (Martin Bracewell) and Wilbur (Chris Dale) and best friend Penny (Maisy Sinclair).
But she is up against mother and daughter Velma (Stacey James) – who produces the Corny Collins Show - and Amber von Tussle (Natalie Davis), who is ‘with’ Link.
Tracey’s journey is helped along by Penny’s new boyfriend Seaweed (Miles Mader) and his mum Motormouth Maybelle (Claude East).
I had not seen the film or listened to the soundtrack for a while and I had forgotten that it is literally banger after banger – but that’s no good if you haven’t got the singers to belt them out. Luckily, for director Adam Collins, HAODS have that talent in abundance.
From the moment we see Tracy in that upright bed and she sings ‘Oh, oh, oh, woke up today….’ I relaxed and thought ‘we are in safe hands here’.
Alderton was the perfect Tracy – a brilliant voice, great moves and exuded positivity. Her chemistry were her parents and best friend was spot on. Sinclair was an absolute joy as the ditzy Penny but there was nothing ditzy about her singing or dancing – she almost stole the show.
James clearly had great fun as the venomous Velma while Davies was suitably screechy and sulky as Amber – if the programme didn’t tell me otherwise, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they were mum and daughter in real life!
Batchelor got the character of Link spot and he played it perfectly with a kind of (deliberately) idiotic swagger.
But the two performances which left the biggest smile on my face were from Bracewell and Dale as Edna and Wilbur. Their version of Timeless to Me was a real crowd pleaser. It was like watching Morecambe and Wise in their prime (if Eric Morecambe wore a dress!). The chemistry was just right with some wonderful comic timing.
Most of the songs are full of joy and are real toe-tappers, but there is one that packs a huge emotional punch – I Know Where I’ve Been – and Claude East’s vocal performance in this song was simply astonishing. I can’t imagine there was a dry eye in The Capitol after that. Chills, literal chills.
Aaliyah Barnes-Mugambe also deserves a mention for her first stage performance as Little Inez.
There was a great ensemble supporting the main cast and they really helped bring the big group numbers like Mama I’m a Big Girl Now, I Can Hear the Bells, Welcome to the 60s, Without Love, The Big Dollhouse (which had a great tap routine) and You Can’t Stop the Beat to life.
With great songs, you need great music and the live orchestra - lead by Musical Director Neil Franks and co-Musical Director Karen Franks – just added to the quality of the production, as did the dance routines (Rachel Dale and Caitlin Franks were choreographers) – I was just exhausted watching the energy the whole cast put in and the vibrant set.
This kind of production proves you don’t have to go to the West End to see some quality musical theatre. Director Adam Collins have everyone involved at HAODS have done a wonderful job.
Hairspray is on at The Capitol, Horsham until Saturday, November 11, for more information visit https://www.thecapitolhorsham.com/whats-on/all-shows/haods-presents-hairspray/21434