Review: Hairspray

At The Alhambra, Bradford

IT'S rare for this reviewer to be able to see the same show twice in the space of six months without travelling miles to do so.

But Hairspray arrived in Bradford this winter having only just been seen in Leeds during the summer. Normally there wouldn't be enough of an audience to allow a musical to be staged in two neighbouring cities in such a relatively short space of time – not a problem in this instance.

Theatres across the UK have snapped the smash hit up since it left the West End and hit the road and a packed Alhambra last week showed why.

It's also rare for this reviewer to be willing to see the same show twice in the space of six months.

Might I just have been remembering it with rose-tinted glasses? Not a bit of it.

The stage version of John Waters movie masterpiece was somehow better on a second viewing, delivering all the memorable moments from the first time, plus some delightful extras missed previously.

On this occasion the show-stealing parts of kooky husband-and-wife duo Edna and Wilbur Turnblad were played by Michael Starke (of Brookside fame) and Mickey Dolenz (star of The Monkees).

Both were great and completely at ease with the sort of surroundings we don't expect to find them in.

Starke did a good job as Edna, but on the last tour Brian Conley played the part and somehow his comedic familiarity gave him the edge.

But that's a tiny footnote of cynicism amid a musical which drips optimism. Laurie Scarth as wannabe star Tracy Turnblad and Liam Doyle as love interest and TV star Link Larkin, who both appeared last time round, remain absolutely perfect.

In fact this is all-round just about the best musical ever created. It's fun, it's smart, it's thought-provoking but above all else it is full of great music.

Not the epic anthems of old school musicals, or the instantly forgettable tunes of their modern counterparts, but a great blend of bubblegum showtunes and toe-tapping soul.

Could I watch it a third time? Sure, and a fourth...and a fifth.

Until Sat, The Alhambra, Morley Street, Bradford, 7.30pm, Fri mats 2pm, Sat mats 2.30pm, 20.50 to 42.50 with 2-for-1 tickets available for the Friday matinee. Tel: 01274 432000.

The Chandos portrait of William Shakespeare, attributed to John Taylor. Picture National Portrait Gallery

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