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I've got my hairspray
Member Name: bilbob20
Advantages: Catchy numbers, good dancing, and a likeable cast
Disadvantages: A little rushed to the end, and a little bit metalic to be honest
2007's film of Hairspray is one of my favourite musicals committed to film. For me, its a modern day Grease, full to the brim with catchy songs that capture the nostalgia of the sixties as well as an exhuberant energy that is as near flawless as a film can produce. I hadn't seen nor heard the stage version that has been playing in London for the past few years. However, I finally managed to see it tonight as the tour brought itself to Glasgow's Armadillo.
The film it has to be said is almost seamlessly patched from the stage show on display. However, a little of the excitement was lost as it seemed a little unengaging on stage. The energy is still there, the songs are still catchy, but some of the narrative seemed flimsier without the back up of editing and more realistic settings. Perhaps, its true that you will always value more the first medium that you are told a story. A film is rarely as good as the book it is born from. This is also true if you have seen a musical film prior to seeing its stage version.
The story is set in the sixties, in a time where being different was still a source of belittlement. We're first introduced to Tracy Turnblad as she wakes up for another day of high school, and another day of dreaming about becoming a famous dancer on a Baltimore TV show. The Corny Collins Show is her favourite, and she longs to be part of it, as well as harbouring an unrequited love for the heartthrob of the show Link Larkin.
Finally, Tracy gets her dream though, much against the wishes of her overprotective mother. She gets a part on the show, and begins to wish for integration between the white's and the "negro's" who get a single day a month to dance on the alternative version of the program. Putting her little plan in peril is the wicked Velma Von Tussle, who thinks that a fat "communist" girl and a group of dancing negro's should not have a place in the show that she is responsible for producing.
As the story goes on, Tracy engages the help of her parents to combat the racist attitude's and finds herself on the wrong side of the law. She finally captures the attention of Link, with able support from her best friend Penny. Together, they all stage protest against the treatment of the black's, and push the show towards making a decision about that treatment that could potentially lose the show its main sponsor.
The stage show is a song and dance extravaganza that is as flawless as the film. The sets are colourful and technically superb. Even the performances are near note perfect, with some of them even drawing from the film performances. Tracie Bennett is so like Michelle Pfeiffer in voice and appearance that I wasn't entirely sure it wasn't her. Although Bennett's singing voice is far superior, and shines through on more than one number, the best of which is the bitchy "Legend Of Baltimore Crabs".
It is Michael Ball who is outstanding though, and left me surprised by his camp and efficient performance as Edna Turnblad. Ball largely tones down his big voice to lend a feminine middle aged tone to proceedings, but still comes to life most when his voice is in familiar ground. There was a moment after the superb and surprisingly poignant duet "Your Timeless To Me" where himself and the flawless Les Dennis done a little improv, presumably to cover a hick up with the set. This was the moment that drew the most laughs from the audience, as things got a little saucy. Ball is a family entertainer by nature though, and none of the innuendo got out of hand for the minor's in the audience.
As Tracy Turnblad, Laurie Scarth was a triumph. I'm not quite sure if there was some padding on there, but the way that girl moved was the highlight of the show, even if her voice seemed a little screechy at times. The only other negative of the show was that Liam Doyle didn't live up to Zac Efron's charisma and fell flat when he was required to sing. The actress, whose name I'm not sure of, who played Motormouth Maybell was also patchy in places. Her big notes left my neck hairs tingling, but there were times where she was slightly flat, and struggled to sing and dance at the same time.
There is a huge amount of enjoyment to be had from Marc Sharman's musical score and the dance routine's. Like most musical's, there is little substance to the story, and the question of racial integration merely seems like a plot point to hang the songs upon. That said, the show itself never faltered, remained funny and enjoyable for the most part, and left the audience with a huge grin on their face. My main quibble is with a couple of the performances, and the fact that the finale seems so rushed. Perhaps the film version was stretched out slightly to even the pace, but on the back of seeing this, the stretch was required, and is sorely missed here. Tracy's potential victory over Amber is over before it has began, and its all wrapped up too nicely, even for the baddies. Having seen the film first, I think I was just a little in the cold by the efficient by-the-book production.
Summary: Nice show that could be a little more involving