Hairspray – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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By Sandra Callard, September 2021

Oh what joy! Exactly what the packed house needed at the beautiful Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, which was sparkling clean and shining as it welcomed the stream of theatre lovers with happy smiles. Covid was just a bad dream as the stage lit up with terrific music, singing and dancing as Hairspray burst onto the stage.

Katie Brace played, sang and danced Tracy Turnblad, the fat girl who became a star and icon, and bagged the best looking boy on the block. She played it with bells on, and looked like she enjoyed every riotous and funny moment every bit as much as the audience did.

Her mother, Edna, who is always played by a man, exploded on the stage as a six foot plus female, along with her five foot partner, and Alex Bourne and Paul Hutton hit the comedy notes perfectly throughout.

hairspray review bradford alhambra september

“Gentle and bold”

The story is flimsy, but who cares? The energy, solid work and determination was evident in every one of the numerous cast, and it paid off in spades as the whole lot of them were given a huge standing ovation.

The action never slowed as scene followed scene with a slick and fast rapidity, and the singers and dancers followed suit with strong and solid performances. They were rewarded with a massive standing ovation, and everyone in the house, both on and off the stage, were smiling.

The numerous sets were fairly sparse but enough to warrant a full understanding of the scene. The tiny part of the stage that was the Turnblad household was easily overshadowed by the enormous figure of Edna Turnblad as she carefully did her ironing. The look on the face of Alex Bourne as he raised his eyebrows to the audience in a “what are YOU laughing at?” stance brought the house down. He was brilliant. Funny, strong, gentle and bold, he nailed every emotion into what could so easily have become a drag queen takeoff, and he had the audience in the palm of his hand. It was a superb performance.

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“Breathless in its speed”

The orchestra at the Bradford Alhambra is always superb and this time was no different, except that they were at the very rear of the stage and also at the very top of it. Patrons were barely aware of them as they blasted out the songs and tunes that Hairspray is known for, and they too received their reward when they were eventually in the limelight at the show’s finale. The orchestra brought an essential glory to the show and its vast number of musical pieces, and the audience was right to show their appreciation.

Hairspray is a wonderful, happy and funny musical. It is breathless in its speed and capacity for change and movement, and l was not aware of any bad or poor performance in the whole show. An absolutely cracking night at the theatre. So see it if you can!


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