Thursday, June 20

Hairspray – London Coliseum

Re-opening at one of London’s biggest theatres, the Coliseum, the West End revival of multi-award-winning musical Hairspray, set in the 1960s, tells the story of young girl Tracy Turnblad who strives to challenge racial discrimination on her favourite TV show.

Following theatre’s highly anticipated return to full capacity after over a year of struggles, from the opening number “Good Morning Baltimore” this talented cast truly delivered an exceptional fun-filled evening as if nothing had changed.

Jerry Mitchell’s high-energy choreography, David Rockwell’s eye-catching set and William Ivey Long’s colourful costumes offered a warm welcome back to live performance that the industry truly deserved. By the end of the final number “You Can’t Stop The Beat” everyone was dancing and singing in their seats and it felt like a moment of normality.

Lizzie Bea leads the show as Tracy, providing the perfect mix of humour, vulnerability and determination. Her singing, acting and dancing were all top-notch, especially in her charismatic rendition of “Welcome To The 60s”, Bea is certainly a star in the making.

West End alum Michael Ball reprised his Olivier-award winning role of Edna Turnblad, Tracy’s hilarious and good-natured laundress mother. Ball’s comedic timing and often pantomime-like performance provided some of the funniest moments in the show. Edna’s duet with TV treasure Les Dennis as Tracy’s father Wilbur in “(You’re) Timeless To Me” had just the right amount of chemistry and humour, leaving the audience in fits of laughter. You could really tell the two actors were enjoying themselves.

From Ashley Samuels as the smooth-talking Seaweed to Jonny Amies’ loveable performance as Link, the entire cast undoubtedly captured Hairspray’s incredible spirit and their excitement at being back on stage was palpable. A special mention must go to Michael Vinsen, who delivered all the cheese and charm as TV presenter Corny Collins, alongside some brilliant vocals.

The standout performance came from Marisha Wallace as Motormouth Maybelle, whose phenomenal version of “I Know Where I’ve Been” was a real showstopper. Wallace’s impressive voice grew from soft to full-on belt as she pleads for an end to racial injustice, her powerhouse performance really tugged at the heartstrings.

It was a memorable evening for both the cast and the audience, with a few cast members brought to tears following thunderous applause and a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the night. Ball took the mic at curtain call, delivering an emotional yet hopeful message that theatre is back and will be better than ever.

Bright and uplifting from start to finish, Hairspray is the joyous comeback to the arts that we all need. With its catchy music and incredible dancing, it would be pretty difficult to not enjoy this musical. For those who have missed the magic of live performance and may need a boost after this tough year, Hairspray is the show for you.

Hairspray is currently showing at the London Coliseum until 29th September, tickets can be purchased at

Reviewer: Gemma Prince

Reviewed: 20th July 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★