Against the backdrop of the Curve’s state-of-the-art theatre space, director Paul Kerryson places television monitors relaying ads from the 1960s - the perfect setting for this excellent musical, and highlighting the influence of mass media against the stranglehold of social conformity.
Zizi Strallen and Rebecca Craven in Hairspray at Curve, Leicester Photo: Pamela Raith Photography
Kerryson’s lively revival of the massive 2002 Broadway hit is a real tonic, featuring a talented, exuberant cast and re-establishing the work as one of the great dance musicals. Lee Proud’s choreographic vocabulary is easily as eloquent as Marc O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book, setting a frenetic pace that mirrors the urgency and need for social change.
Central to the success of this show is the performance by Rebecca Craven as Tracy Turnblad. Bursting with energy and brimming with self assurance, Craven captures the innocence and ambition of the Baltimore schoolgirl from the outset. EastEnders’ David Witts reminds us of his National Youth Music Theatre training with an equally engaging performance as heart-throb Link Larkin.
Damian Williams as a garrulous Edna and John Barr as husband Wilbur make exemplary parents while Sophie-Louise Dann as Velma Von Tussle tears up the stage with a show-stopping Velma’s Revenge. The eleven o’clock number, however, is given over to Claudia Kariuki’s Motormouth Maybelle, who rings out the shows central message - integration not segregation - with dignity, strength and remarkable vocal theatrics.
Paul Moore’s simple but effective kaleidoscope set design gives full rein to Proud’s buoyant set pieces but the real star of Hairspray is the show itself, a near perfect balance of book and music celebrating mankind’s capacity for change and acceptance.