CREAGH/CARR REVIEW: Hairspray, Milton Keynes Theatre

Rebecca Mendoza in Hairspray
Rebecca Mendoza in Hairspray

Dynamic duo Bev Creagh and Stewart Carr – for once united – reveal their thoughts on Hairspray, playing at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, April 14.

CREAGH SAYS ... I can’t remember the last time I came out of the theatre with such a spring in my step and such joy in my heart. As an equally enthusiastic audience member in the row behind us said as we cheered and clapped during the standing ovation: “This must be the musical hit of the century – it puts Mama Mia and all the others in the shade.”

And this wasn’t so much a cast as a galaxy of superstars – every single person on stage illuminated it with outstanding ability. It features Luton’s very own Brenda Edwards packing a mega punch as Motormouth Mable. She’s come a long way since the X Factor in 2005, via various West End shows, including We Will Rock You where she won huge acclaim as the Killer Queen..

It was also the night Wilbur Turnblad understudy (Graham Macduff)) made the role his own. His scenes with wife Edna (Matt Rixon) were pure entertainment gold, not least because of his minnow to her massive bulk. The pair brought the house down with their tender rendition of You’re Timeless to Me.

The story is about plump Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad (a stellar performance from Rebecca Mendoza) and her plain friend Penny Pingleton (Annalise Liard-Bailey), Tracy’s dream of dancing on the The Corny Collins Show and her mother’s unwavering belief and support.

It tells of how her dream becomes reality, how she overcomes racial prejudice – and wins the boy into the bargain.

It’s full of life lessons but each is delivered so delicately and with such sensitivity that you never feel you’re being educated.

In 2003 it won eight Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical.

This production is an absolute triumph – and if you see only one show this year, make sure it’s Hairspray.

CARR SAYS ... If ever there was a musical to drown out your sorrows and lift your spirits sky high, it’s Hairspray!

Descended from the 1988 cult film by John Waters which parachuted Rikki Lake to fame, Hairspray traces the adventures of fully-figured Tracey Turnblad (Rebecca Mendoza) as she chases fame and fun on the Corney Collins’ dance show in 1960s Baltimore.

Proving she can glam it up with the best of them, Tracey sports a hair barnet inches high and shows she’s got the moves to match spoilt starlet Amber Von Tussle (Aimee Moore) and heart-throb Link Larkin (Edward Chitticks) dancing on the small screen

But Tracey’s trist with fame takes an ugly turn as she spots the segregation behind the scenes at the TV studio, and determines to put things right.

LGBT icon Divine’s gender-bending role as Tracey’s mother has been strictly upheld with the film’s transition to musical and is played with glorious ribaldry by Matt Rixon, whose double-act with Tracey’s father (Graham Macduff) easily scores the biggest laughs of the night.

With an impressively strong cast all-round, there’s never a foot wrong or a flat note as the drama inexorably rolls on to its triumphant finale number, ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’.

Special shout out to Brenda Edwards, whose majestic stage presence and vocal prowess as Motormouth Maybelle lends an added strength to a cast already slaying at its game.

Definitely not one to miss! Hairspray plays at MK Theatre until Saturday, April 14. See here for tickets.