Over the last week, Wales Millennium Centre has been transported to Baltimore, 1962 for the highly anticipated production of Hairspray. Big hair, big voices and big personalities shine through the musical as it tells the tale of a young Tracy Turnblad and her dreams to dance her way on to ‘The Corny Collins Show’. If you haven’t caught the show yet, there’s still time, but until then, here’s why we love it…
While famous for its vintage-inspired costumes, lively musical numbers and loveable, believable characters, the Tony Award winning production is often hailed as larger than life, but it isn’t just a work of frothy escapism. Underneath the big hair and sixties spirit, the magic comes from its place in pop culture, drawing an America on the brink of change.
- A wealth of strong women
Featuring a wealth of strong female leads and characters, Hairspray shakes and shimmies it’s way to full blown girl power status: Tracy Turnblad, the lead, is an open-minded optimist and resilient, determined to achieve her dream of dancing on national TV while Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad is learns the importance of acceptance and self-love.
Velma Von Tussle is Hairspray’s main villainess, the pushy-parent who tries to guide her daughter Amber to fame; making Amber the original spoilt darling of The Corny Collins Show.
Penny Pingleton is Tracy’s best friend who defies her strongly religious mother, Prudy, to pursue a relationship with a black man, defying societal expectations and familial pressure.
Enjoy a wonderful ensemble by a wealth of strong female leads whilst listening to classics such as ‘Good Morning Baltimore’, ‘Big, Blonde and Beautiful’ and ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’.
- Encourages the importance of self-love
Hairspray is a constant reminder of the importance of loving yourself in a world that can often tell you otherwise. While Tracy follows her dream of appearing on a show known for favouring slender women, Edna Turnblad also learns a valuable lesson in self love. The musical follows her on a journey from a shy woman with her own laundry business, to a strong individual who overcomes body consciousness, embracing herself and exclaiming proudly through the musical number ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ that she likes the way she is.
Edna practices self-love through embracing herself within an increasingly image-obsessed society, a theme which still resonates with audiences in a digital age saturated with curated social media and controlled selfie perfection.
The self-love portrayed by Tracy Turnblad is also a topic which can’t go a miss. The teenager is unfazed by the attempts of others to ridicule her appearance, and doesn’t let it become an obstacle to success.
- Follows the introduction of integration in society
Set in 1962, Hairspray doesn’t shy away from the prominent social issue of racial segregation, with ‘Negro Day’ on The Corny Collins Show cancelled instead of integrated with the host programme. While a difficult topic to tackle in most situations, Hairspray presents the audience with a digestible understanding of the racial segregation which was faced by communities, adding to the story’s honesty and authenticity.
Hairspray has been dubbed as an homage to the 1960’s as remembered by those who lived it, rather than the ‘prettied-up period’ which many often criticise other productions for.
- A little bit of romance
Everybody loves love, right? It’s fair to say that Hairspray isn’t short of endearing love stories that make the audience root for the characters from beginning to end. The romance between Edna and Wilbur Turnblad is something rather special, with the audience invited to witness the intimacy shared by the couple in a performance of ‘You’re Timeless to Me’. The devotion and appreciation they share is joyful and hopeful, even for the most cynical of hearts.
Penny and Seaweed also share a touching love story. Their teenage romance differs from the romance shown by Edna and Wilbur as Penny and Seaweed’s interracial love was typically taboo. The defiance showed by Penny to her mother to pursue a relationship with Seaweed is both inspiring and heart-warming in a foreshadowing of societal change to come.
- Parental love and the ultimate bond of family
A tight family unit can be a tough relationship to portray on stage, but this particular production depicts the different ways parents love their children beautifully and honestly, with many parents able to relate to the contrasts in family affections.
While Edna Turnblad is shown to want to protect Tracey from any harm, Prudy demonstrates parental love through a set of rules she believes will keep Penny safe, each doing their best to protect their daughters from the realities of life. While Velma Von Tussell encourages Amber in a what can be described as ‘pushy’ way, she ultimately wants Amber to achieve greatness; and Motormouth Maybelle stands as a strong loving female role model to Little Inez.
All in all, Hairspray is an uplifting production that boasts strong underlying themes and infectious musical numbers, a fizzy combination that makes Hairspray an inspiring musical for audiences of all ages.
There’s still a few days left to grab your tickets before Hairspray leaves us on 26 August, buy yours here and meet the nicest kids in town.