REVIEW: Hairspray, Norwich Theatre Royal

Emma Lee gives her verdict on Hairspray at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Big songs, a big heart and big beehives – Hairspray is the show that has it all.

The all-star, all-singing, all-dancing retro extravaganza began a two-week sold-out run at Norwich Theatre Royal last night.

Based on the hit John Waters movie, the show, in the city for the first time, follows the story of Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad.

Against the odds she fulfils her dream of becoming one of the 'nicest kids in town': a dancer on the TV programme The Corny Collins Show. She becomes the queen of the small screen – but also has to deal with the rivalry of her catty co-star Amber Von Tussle (Clare Halse) and her terrifically horrific mother Velma (Gillian Kirkpatrick), win the love of heart-throb Link Larkin and be crowned Miss Teenage Hairspray 1962.

But set against a backdrop of racial segregation and with some neat little satirical twists (the opening number Good Morning Baltimore is a joy) and snappy one-liners, Hairspray is a cut above your average musical.

The cast includes ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz as Wilbur Turnblad and former Brookside star Michael Starke, as you've never seen him before, as Tracy's mother, Edna.

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The two actors riff off each other brilliantly during the number Timeless to Me – how much of it was scripted and how much was ad libbed I'm not sure, but it was hilarious, especially when Dolenz seemed to lose his composure.

There were some fabulous performances and fabulous vocals – and some gravity-defying hairstyles which really were a feat of engineering. Stand-outs included Sandra Marvin, who is reprising the role of Motormouth Maybelle after playing her in the West End, High School Musical 2 graduate Emma Dukes as Tracy's best friend Penny Pingleton (you may have guessed this is a show which loves its alliteration), former GMTV talent search winner Liam Doyle as Link and Wayne Robinson as Seaweed.

But the show belongs to West End star Laurie Scarth, who is just adorable as Tracy and creates a heroine you are truly rooting for.

By the final curtain, the audience were on their feet and dancing in the aisles. This feelgood show is the perfect antidote to the winter blues.

Emma Lee

Hairspray is at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday February 12. Returns only. Box office: 01603 630000.