Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Hairspray - A Review

Hairspray poster

It seems that life has made a come-back to the desolate shores of my existence. After the busy past week at the Cycle Show and starting work on the remodeling of the shop, today, I received a phone call from a recent new member of my reading group inviting me, for some incomprehensible reason, to share the bonanza of free tickets to the musical Hairspray at the Shaftesbury. The previews opened on the 11th and the show opens properly on 30th.

The guy is an actor and a friend of his, who seems to be managing the Front of House team (or something like that) had lined up for him two circles tickets complete with complementary Champagne and 3 track CD sampler of the original Broadway recording (the tracks can be downloaded here).

The show is based on John Waters' 1988 film and stars Michael Ball (in Divine's role of Edna Turnblad), Mel Smith (as Edna's husband), Leanne Jones (as their daughter, Tracy) and Ben James-Ellis (as Tracy's love interest).

While Michael Ball is an old hand of musical theatre, Mel Smith, although famous for has never appeared in a musical. And neither has Leanne Jones, the lead, who until a few months ago was still working in a bank. The same goes for Ben James-Ellis, a reject from the BBC's "Any Dream Will Do" competition.

Michael Ball and Leanne Jones in Hairspray
Apart from James-Ellis who doesn't have much presence and whose appearances were rather unmemorable the whole cast is very good indeed (particularly perhaps Johnnie Fiori as "Motormouth" Maybelle). Ball is very good at making us forget that he is a man in drag and the love duet with Smith is actually rather moving. Both the singing and dancing are generally great and the show was a huge amount of fun while still dealing with the serious subjects of difference and acceptance.

The show, which had its premiere at the Neil Simon Theater on Broadway in 2002 and, in 2003, won eight Tonys, including Best Musical. Several transfers to the West End have been rumoured over the years (2003 and 2005) but the show is only reaching our shores now.

On the month marking Black History Month in the UK and after researching content for this Month to publish on the LGBT History Month website and confronted with the dearth of material available, I felt particularly proud that this story had originally been written and filmed by a member of the LGBT community.

Hairspray: The night a new star will be born by Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail, 12 October 2007
Hairspray - the 1988 film on wikipedia

directed by Jack O'Brien
book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan,
music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8DP
from 11th October
Running Time: 2h40 (15min interval)
tickets: £20 to £60
(no website available)


  1. I bet Ben James Ellis has more stage presence in his little finger than you! Its jealousy...

  2. Only, I'm not one of the leads in a West End musical, so it doesn't matter if I have stage presence or not.

  3. Ben James-Ellis is amazing as Link Larkin.

    Ive just been to see Hairspray twice in 3 days. Best musical Ive ever seen!!

    The cast are all amazing, and the best 5 in my mind are:

    Leanne Jones (Tracy)
    Ben James-Ellis (Link)
    Elinor Collett (Penny)
    Johnnie Fiori (Motormouth)
    Michael Ball (Edna)

    but really, they are all amazing, and make it look as though they have a really great time together as a team!!


Please leave your comment here. Note that comments are moderated and only those in French or in English will be published. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and to leave a thought.