Stage Review of HAIRSPRAY at Lichfield Garrick Theatre

With a mix of dialogue (General American) and music/lyrics by American composer, Mark Shaiman and lyricist Scott Whitman, these melodious songs are played by a live ‘orchestra’ and we see Kitty Roberts starring as the vivaciously funny and morality driven, Tracy Turnblad, wearing that distinctive oversized wig. Roberts is just perfect in the lead role

What comes across in the performances is that everyone is enjoying what they do. The solos are strong, and backing singing is very good, but when tunes require more voices one or two are not quite hitting the right key. Generally, however, there’s some quality singers in this set up, the song ‘I know where I’ve been,’ is stunning – such ‘nice pipes’ Marsha Webbe, and some great harmonies from others. And the song ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ is another highlight, a duet by Edna (Mark Skett) and Wilbur (Tony Orbell). Edna is traditionally a female character played by a man, and Skett is just great! His Edna lands somewhere between Les Dawson’s Ada and the theatrical Shirley MacLaine! While Chelsea Greathead plays Tracy’s best pal, Penny Pingleton reminiscently of perhaps a Brady Bunch kid and most definitely Scooby Doo’s Velma. Congratulations for your good work to all five mentioned above

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Cast members of Hairspray including Front middle; Patrick Jervis as Corny Collins and Front right: Sally Jane Adams as Amber

These more outrageous of caricatures, are, of course, supported by some snazzy and snappy, whiter than white movers; hoppin’-and-a-boppin’ on the Corny Collins Show, sporting exaggerated smiles and boundless enthusiasm. While, comparatively, school detention sees Tracy in with a group of African-American students- and we see a whole new vibe going down! Overall there is some lovely staging and scenery, with detail and special touches, and the wardrobe is excellent. The three black singers with their back combed hair set high, and their velvet dresses are extremely glamorous

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Cast of Hairspray including Front left – Kitty Roberts as Tracy and Front right –  Helen Gilfoyle as Velma

The youth, spirit and popular culture of the US in the early sixties and its underlying racial tension, is the theme. ‘Hairspray’ is not really equipped to make one think-on, nor is it a capturer of the imagination, nonetheless the music is uplifting, the songs full of character, and the colourful visuals twinned with well designed choreography means there is much to admire with this sizeable and quality production. Therefore, if you’re going this week to the Lichfield Garrick, know your day will end being all the brighter for it

Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall who attended Hairspray at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre on Tuesday 31 May 2016


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