Hairspray – Queen Mary Theatre Company ★★★★★

A foot-stomping, talent goldmine. Queen Mary Theatre Company’s Hairspray queers the status quo with fabulous singing, moves and an irresistible, inclusive energy.

Full disclosure: Rupert works at Queen Mary University of London and wasn’t planning to review – but we really feel the company should be recognised for their stunning achievement.

Queen Mary Theatre Company (and Queen Mary Dance Company) presents a stripped back but exquisitely directed version of the Broadway classic, one which brings out the heart and focuses on top-quality performances from a spectacular young cast. The vital story of diversity and integration in America in 1962 is told through heroine Tracey Turnblad’s rags to riches story with a cast of memorable misfits.

The whole ensemble shines, with pitch perfect renditions of sunshine-on-a-stick songs like Good Morning Baltimore. Impressive solo performances from the principal cast included the fabulous Mimi Lim with a powerhouse vocal as Tracy Turnblad, Noelle Merino as a believable and sweet Penny Pinkleton, a soulful Motormouth Mayvel from Freya Johnson, and Elliot Douglas as silky, suave masc Link Larkin. Chris Patten-Walker is also an accomplished musical theatre triple threat, and definitely one to watch.

The supporting cast of Ester Pinto, Tara Olawoye, Bryony Dougherty and so many others truly brought both grit and sparkle to every moment, and Liam McLeod’s unflappable, camped-up Corny Collins was just dazzling.

The whole company – performing without mics and reverb effects – managed to bring an ensemble, almost gospel energy to the musical numbers. So much so, that the roof nearly blew off the Pinter Studio by the time we got to the biggest of big numbers: You Can’t Stop the Beat. The Hairspray musical score is exhausting, and perhaps this was the only song which needed a little more oomph – but by that point, you could excuse a little tiredness in the legs!

Overall, this truly impressive show deserves a second run and hopefully will be seen by a wider audience. But for the lucky few who’ll get in to QMUL’s Pinter Studio, they will be wowed by this stellar tribute to the need for collective action.