REVIEW: Hairspray, Sunderland Empire, until September 30

Love is in the air at Hairspray.
Love is in the air at Hairspray.

You can't stop the beat - and frankly you won't want to.

Hairspray opened at the Sunderland Empire last night and was every inch the go-to show.

All the glamour of Hairspray.

All the glamour of Hairspray.

A slight hiccup meant the audience was left waiting half an hour for the performance to start, but it was more than worth the wait.

The West End and Broadway hit musical was warmly welcomed by the Wearside audience and had them dancing in their seats.

Hairspray follows the fortunes of 'larger than life' character, Tracy Turnblad, who has no intention of letting the fact she is a bigger girl keep her from realising her dream of dancing on national television.

Making her professional debut as Tracy, Rebecca Mendoza is a breath of fresh air, she clearly puts her heart and soul into the character and is funny, sweet and feisty all at the same time.

Hairspray at the Sunderland Empire.

Hairspray at the Sunderland Empire.

In fact, it would be difficult to fault any of the actors, all giving an amazing polished performance, with dazzling dancing and sensational singing.

Taking up the roles of Tracy's parents are Norman Pace (of Hale and Pace Show fame) as her dad, Wilbur Turnblad, and Matt Rixon as her mum, Edna Turnblad, a role made famous in the most recent hit film version by John Travolta.

It is an inspired pairing as the two play off each other very well and their duet 'You're Timeless To Me' is one of the highlights of the show, warm, funny and with a little touch of the pantomime about it, which the audience loved.

But, this story is not all fun and games, it tackles the serious issues of prejudice.

Hairspray at the Sunderland Empire.

Hairspray at the Sunderland Empire.

Set in Baltimore in 1961 where colour segregation is still rife, Tracy and her friends embark on a quest to tackle racism and find a way for black and white people to dance together on the television show.

With the help of Brenda Edwards, who is in fine voice as Motormouth Maybelle and her son, Seaweed, played by Layton Williams, who is a massive hit with the audience, they storm the live show and succeed in getting everyone dancing together.

Featuring the hit songs Welcome To The 60s, You Can’t Stop The Beat, The Nicest Kids in Town and Big, Blonde and Beautiful, Hairspray really is a show not to be missed by any lover of musical theatre, it has the feel-good factor in abundance.

Tickets are available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.

Dancing the dream at Hairspray.

Dancing the dream at Hairspray.