Hairspray at Grand Opera House, Belfast – Review

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On Saturday 4th November 2017 I went to the matinee performance of Hairspray at the Grand Opera House, Belfast. This was my third time seeing Hairspray live on stage, as I saw it twice in the West End in 2009. I had high hopes because the West End show was amazing, and Hairspray is my all-time favourite musical. Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed!

If you haven’t seen Hairspray – it’s set in 1960’s Baltimore where racial segregation is rife. An overweight teenager Tracy Turnblad auditions for a dancing role in the Corny Collins Show. She uses her new-found fame to campaign for social justice, equality and integration.

The show was completely infectious from the first few bars of “Good Morning Baltimore” right through to the end of the “You Can’t Stop The Beat” encore. There was barely a person in the room without a smile on their face throughout.

Rosie O’Hare was the perfect Tracy Turnblad – I was really surprised to find out that she is the Tracy understudy.  If the Grand Opera House hadn’t announced it over the tanoy – no-one would ever have known. Her vocals were flawless and she made naive Tracy instantly lovable.

Another standout was Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle – she’s got a voice like no other. Her portrayal of Maybelle really made me wish that the character was featured more throughout the show. I just wanted to hear her sing again and again. She really was born to play this role.

One of the highlights of the show for me was “You’re Timeless To Me” performed by Edna and Wilbur Turnblad, played by Matt Rixon and Norman Pace respectfully. Their version brought the house down and captured the essence of the two characters and their relationship perfectly.

I also have to give a special mention to the unsung hero of the production Tracey Penn, who played Penny’s mother, the prison guard and the hugely inappropriate (but also hilarious) PE teacher. She really showed that there is no such thing as a small part because she was a real scene stealer.

The costumes were amazing – whether it was the cast of the Corny Collins show or the fabulous trio “The Dynamites” who lead the vocals in “Welcome to the Sixties”. I felt like I had been transported back to 1962.

The only downside of going to see Hairspray live is that you will never want to watch the movie version again. The stage show blows it out of the water. The stage show also features some extra songs like “The Big Dollhouse” and “Cooties” which aren’t in the movie version – so it’s worth seeing for that too.

I went to see the show on the last day of the Belfast leg of the tour so unfortunately it’s too late to grab a ticket if you’re reading from Northern Ireland. However, there are plenty of dates coming up in England, Scotland and Wales, which you can check out here.

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