Review: Hairspray The Musical at the Sunderland Empire.

Feel-good musical Hairspray opened at the Sunderland Empire last night.

The energetic show, set in 1962, tells the story of how teenager Tracy Turnblad – a big girl who loves to dance – shakes up an old fashioned Baltimore town.

She integrates society through dance, after winning a spot on her favourite dance programme  – The Corny Collins Show.

Norwich actress Freya Sutton marked her professional theatre début playing the lead role of Tracy, and she didn’t fail to deliver. Her energy and stamina was impressive as she danced effortlessly while belting out classic songs including: Good Morning Baltimore, Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now and I Can Hear The Bells – which had the crowd clapping along from the start.

The production sees Tracy take on narrow-minded TV producer Velma Von Tussle, and her limelight hogging daughter Amber – with the help of her mother Edna Turnblad, best friend Penny Pingleton, Seaweed J Stubbs, and Miss Motormouth Maybelle. She becomes an overnight teen sensation and in the end bags heart-throb Link Larkin, played by Luke Striffler.


Middlesbrough-born actor Mark Benton (left) was hilarious as Edna.  And when he smooched co-star Paul Rider (who plays Tracy’s dad), as they performed Timeless to Me, the crowd were in fits of laughter.

Ex-EastEnders star Lucy Benjamin shone as Velma Von Tussle, with comical timing, pitch-perfect vocals and expressive dance.

A giant can of hairspray took centre stage as the show came to an end with yet another infectious song, You Can’t Stop the Beat.  A standing ovation from the Sunderland audience concluded that his hair-raising musical is still a winner. A must see!

Highlights included  powerful solo, I Know Where I’ve Been, sang by Sandra Marvin, who plays Miss Motormouth Maybelle, and the loveable Seaweed J Studd, played by Marcus Collins’ understudy Fela Lufadeju, who oozed soul as he taught Tracy some new dance moves.

Hairspray in on at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, March 7. For more information visit Sunderland Empire.


Marie Westmoreland-Thornhill

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