American musical Hairspray is based on the 1988 John Waters film Hairspray. The music was by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman and a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. The songs patterned from the “downtown” rhythm and blues and 1960s-style dance music.
Based against the backdrop of a racially dissociated 1962 Baltimore, the story of Tracy Turnblad begin where black kids are only allowed to dance on The Corny Collins TV show one day a month, based a local TV dance program on the real-life Buddy Deane Show.
When Tracy gained a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight, and meets a colorful diversity of characters, as Tracy campaigns for the show’s integration leading to social change. Big-hearted Tracy bravely fights for the rights of her black friends and ultimately triumphs aside from fighting for her right to dance. The love story plot – Tracy also wins the heart of her crush, Link Larkin – but really is secondary to the main action. It is still sadly relevant to the issues of bigotry in Hairspray.
But although the show has powerful lessons for the young and old audience members- it never falls into the corny territory or comes across as priggish – thanks to some enjoyable humor and powerhouse performances.
This new production shows a tremendous vocal talent in numbers including Good Morning Baltimore and the popular You Just Can’t Stop The Beat – the whole ensemble cast shine.
Nothing belittles from the fact that the show is pure entertainment, comedic on the side from start to finish but it is a proof to Hairspray’s enduring appeal that it handles issues of racial tensions so skillfully.
It makes no difference to the huge amount of enjoyment it offers from watching the sensational band and cast although this traveling production has a very simple set.
Hairspray won eight Tony Awards in 2003, and out of 13 nominations, it got the recognition for Best Musical. It ran for 2,642 performances in the Broadway production. Hairspray was adapted as a 2007 musical film and had national tours, including London West End production, and many foreign productions. It got nominated on the London production, for a record-setting eleven Laurence Olivier Awards, winning four including Best New Musical.