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Hairspray @ The Lyceum

As part of its UK tour, the larger-than-life production of Hairspray hit Sheffield this week with all the glitz, glamour and crazy wigs you could ever dream of. Foot-stomping tunes and wild ‘60s fashion combine to create a hugely entertaining production that is high on energy and low on subtlety – although this is no bad thing. This current run stars Claire Sweeney as Velma Von Tussle and Peter Duncan (yes, the Blue Peter guy) as Wilbur Turnblad, each of them throwing themselves wholeheartedly into their sweetly ridiculous caricatures. Try as they may, however, they cannot help being upstaged by an outlandishly camp turn from Tony Mudsley as Edna Turnblad, eliciting at least 80% of the total laugh count from the Sheffield audience.

Easily missed amongst the bubbly performances, cheeky humour and broad satirical brush strokes of ‘60s media culture, there is a serious message to be found of breaking down prejudice in all areas of life – whether race, age or status. It is this core that allows Hairspray to be playful without becoming pantomime. Yes, it is bubble-gum fun, but the issues of body image perceptions and the media treatment of those that are “different”, are far too relevant to simply dismiss.

Hurtling from one show-stopping tune to another, with minimal pause for breath in-between, the cast and band do not rest until they have you up on your feet, clapping like a maniac, breathlessly attempting to keep up with the lyrics to ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat.’ It’s a cathartic experience, one that lingers long after the final curtain call.


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