Hairspray is a blast all the way from Baltimore to the Arena

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 November 2015

Hairspray at the Alban Arena

Hairspray at the Alban Arena

Archant

Heart-warming, funny and with fantastic songs, Hairspray is the perfect musical to brighten up a winter evening.

From the moment Elise Allanson as Tracy Turnblad opened the show with Good Morning Baltimore, to a finale of You Can’t Stop the Beat that had the entire audience of the Alban Arena dancing, we were entertained by a production that could have come straight from the West End.

Set in a fantasy 60s America, Hairspray follows Tracy as she pursues her dreams to dance on television, overcoming prejudice on her way.

It is a show full of big characters and the St Albans Musical Theatre Company cast was excellent, with every actor shining in his or her role. Director Alan Cox explained that although some cast members were very experienced, for some it was their first time on stage.

Elise, as Tracy, led the way, and smiled, shimmied and sang her way with confidence and polish through the entire show. Omar Boothman as Seaweed also shone out, with his dancing and charisma.

A favourite with the audience was Edna, Tracy’s mother, played by Matthew Gregory - I loved his exuberant transformation at Mr Pinky’s and the duet Timeless to Me with Wilbur (Rob Milner) was a joy, and had everyone laughing and cheering. He also had many of the shows best lines, which he delivered with good comedy timing.

In a show of many great moments, I must also mention Sharon Sepala as Motormouth Maybelle and Fenella Lee as Velma who both have terrific voices and great stage presence.

Fenella managed to maintain her strong notes while being hoisted aloft and carried across the stage, which can’t be easy.

The elegant Dynamites sang beautifully too and looked terrific - the costumes and hair for this production were fabulous. We loved the Corny Collins (Justin Jeffreys) number with copious amounts of hairspray, too; very well done.

One of the best aspects of the show was the professional orchestra who sounded amazing; it makes such a difference having live music and I wish we had this more often in Arena productions.

With a sold-out week and standing ovations, Hairspray was a big success and a wonderful showcase to launch the theatre’s company’s new name (they have been known as St Albans Operatic Society since the 30s).

It is great to know that we can see shows of this calibre without having to pay West End prices or take the train. Lucky us!

BECKY ALEXANDER

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