Review: Hairspray, Edinburgh Playhouse ****

“Please sit back and enjoy this show, but remember in life “Just to sit still would be a crime”, writes Producer Mark Goucher in the programme for the new UK tour of Hairspray.

The latest production of the iconic musical takes its audience on a whirlwind tour of 1960s Baltimore through the eyes of vivacious teen Tracey Turnblad as she battles against social prejudice in her quest to dance on live TV. 

From the moment the opening notes of Good Morning Baltimore rang out right until the curtain came down to an energetic all-cast rendition of You Can’t Stop The Beat, The Edinburgh Playhouse stage featured a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors set to one recognisable toe-tapping musical number after another. Alex Bourne and Norman Pace had the audience in stitches with their endearing Act II duet of You’re Timeless to Me, injecting the show with some top-tier comedic timing, while Brenda Edwards’ understudy Bernadette Bangura turned in a sensational performance of I Know Where I’ve Been as Motormouth Maybelle.

As anyone who’s seen the movies will know, beneath the bubblegum aesthetic, endless laughs and feel-good factor of Hairspray lies important messages about racism and self-acceptance. The show encapsulates the optimism of the civil rights movement while also shining a topical light on how far the world still has to go. 

It will come as a shock to anyone watching that Hairspray marks the professional debut of Katie Brace as Tracey. Infectiously energetic, she has a powerful voice that’s as big as her hair and commands the stage in a way that could leave onlookers believing she’d been accustomed to playing lead roles for decades. This is surely just the start for this young star.

The beat stops on Saturday – so make sure you get your tickets before then!

Hairspray is on at The Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 19 March 2022. Tickets are available at ATG Tickets.

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