Sheffield Transported Back to Swinging Sixties as Hairspray Cast Comes to Town

By Stacey Turnbull

@staceyturnbullx

An explosion of colour hit the Sheffield Lyceum last week as the cast of Hairspray graced its stage, and young and old were transported back in time to the swinging 60s.

Set in 1960s Baltimore, USA, Hairspray explores the issues of racial segregation, a serious matter, with a light-hearted twist through Tracy Turnblad, a young girl who auditions for The Corny Collins Show, but is met with struggles along the way because of the inequality the characters face.

Anyone familiar with the history surrounding this era remembers how black and white segregation was rife, but producer Mark Goucher makes the issue easy to understand for the younger generations by incorporating huge hits such as ‘Run and Tell That’, ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ and upbeat dances.

Former Blue Peter Presenter Peter Duncan and Benidorm star Tony Maudsley had great chemistry as Wilbur and Edna Turnblad.

But I feel the actors could have been given more freedom to experiment with the meanings behind the words in the ‘You’re Timeless to Me’ scene, missing out on a prime opportunity to make the scene more comical.

The comedy duo act between Seaweed (Dex Lee) and Penny Pingleton (Monique Young) complemented each other brilliantly, leaving the auditorium in fits of laughter, especially during a saucy bedroom scene.

Hairspray Cast
The Hairspray cast were a big hit with the Sheffield crowd

Freya Sutton was a breath of fresh air as Tracy Turnblad, taking the larger than life character to the next level with her strong vocals and bubbly personality shining through.

Claire Sweeney as Velma Von Tussle was eccentric and very funny as she kept up her broad American accent throughout her performance.

Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmore) and Amber Von Tussle (Lauren Stroud) had voices that could melt butter, but I was disappointed with the portrayal of their characters.

But this may have had more to do with direction than the pair’s acting abilities.

However, it was Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle who stole the show with her powerful rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’, conveyed with complete raw emotion as she sang about the struggles black people in Baltimore had to face as they fought for equality.

Special mention must be given to ensemble member Layton Williams.

His stage presence was on another level, and I often found myself watching him rather than the main action.

The performers managed to portray a serious and thought-provoking scenario with real passion and power, while the music numbers, romance and comedy brought onto the stage kept the audience singing and clapping along, showing they also can’t stop the beat.

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