Looking at theatre and the arts across North East England, the North East Theatre Guide continues to celebrate culture in our region.
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REVIEW: Hairspray at Sunderland Empire
We Hear The Bells In Sunderland!
Until Saturday 30th September 2017
Hairspray is a modern classic. Visually it is bright and energetic. Beneath the candyfloss is a message of social harmony and the fight against small mindedness that is as relevant today as it was in the 1960s.
The show begins with a big production number as the hero, Tracy Turnblad, wakes up on a beautiful morning in Baltimore. This is a chance for Rebecca Mendoza to shine in front of an appreciative Sunderland audience. She meets up with her mate Penny, played by understudy Lindsay Atherton, in order to watch the Corny Collins Show. This is a dance show which in 1963 has an all-white ensemble except for one show each month which is known as “Negro Night”.
The news that one of the dancers is leaving to have a baby means Tracy has her chance to audition and meet the dancers like Link Larkin (Edward Chitticks), on whom she has a crush. Being open minded she wants to bring integration to the show and to have kids of all races dancing together. But this is 1963, the producer Velma (Gina Murrray) and the shows sponsor Mr. Harriman F. Spritzer (Graham MacDuff) have other ideas.
Support for Tracy in her conquest is from her larger than life mother Edna and father Wilbur, played by Matt Rixon and Norman Pace. They are a great double act and created many of the shows lighter moments - especially during their duet ‘You’re Timeless To Me’.
Singing is faultless throughout the show. One particular highlight is when Brenda Edwards, as DJ Motormouth Maybelle, nails ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’. The dancing from the ensemble was a real highlight of the show. Layton Williams, as Seaweed, had opportunity to show his moves.
The set and lighting are both effective in delivering the show without gaps in the action. There may have been a delay at the start but it was well worth the wait. The set featured the live band, under Musical Director Ben Atkinson, at the back of the set during the Corny Collins TV show scenes. The band didn’t put a foot wrong all night.
Director Paul Kerryson and choreographer Drew McOnie have delivered a positive show that has many laughs. The dancing and on stage action have a real energy that left the audience buzzing at the end. The cast, band and crew deserved the standing ovation at the end. Whilst it is a 21stcentury musical - it is a firm favourite with musical fans and it is easy to see why.