Feel good 60s classic Hairspray brings the beat to Sunderland's Empire theatre

‘Welcome to the 60s’ as Hairspray returns to The Empire Theatre with glitter, soul and plenty of dancing.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 2:48 pm

Hairspray the Musical is sure to put a spring in your step after feel good songs and powerful voices filled the Empire Theatre in Sunderland on Monday evening, (January 10).

And you could tell the leading lady was over the moon to be performing in her hometown – not to mention the fantastic response from the audience who fell in love with her funny and charismatic character.

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Katie Brace from Sunderland made her professional debut as Tracy Turnblad.

The performance takes you back to 1962 Baltimore where teenager Tracy Turnblad dreams of dancing on the local television dance programme, while fighting for equality and bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin (Ross Clifton) along the way.

While dancing, big hair and beautiful dresses are at the forefront of the musical, Hairspray explores the themes of racial prejudice and freedom of expression and despite its timeline, the issues are just as relevant in today’s society.

It was hard to take your eyes off Katie, who is from Grangetown, as she delivered Tracy’s persona perfectly.

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Hairspray runs at the Sunderland Empire until January 15.

Her performance was energetic and her comedic timing was faultless, and not forgetting her impressive voice that bellowed across the stage.

Talking of comedic timing, Alex Bourne’s role as Tracy’s mum Edna Turnblad and Norman Pace’s performances as Tracy’s father Wilbur Turnblad actually made me laugh out loud.

The duo had such humorous mannerisms separately that their performance gelled together to create something that felt so natural and funny.

Aside from the comedy, Brenda Edwards performance as Motormouth Maybelle was exceptional – it was powerful as she captured the audience with belter ‘I know where I’ve been’.

A feel good 60s classic has returned to Sunderland.

The audience watched on in awe as her euphonious voice filled the Empire and I felt in that moment it really shone a spotlight on prejudices that exist from the colour of your skin to body image – something that was captured throughout the entire show.

With songs including Good Morning Baltimore, Welcome to the 60s and You Can’t Stop the Beat, you couldn’t help but not sit still.

I have seen Hairspray several times over the years, but I was surprised to see the sheer talent of each and every character, not one person let down the performance.

Rebecca Jayne-Davies was cast extremely well as Tracy’s very awkward but sweet best friend Penny Pingleton as was Jessica Croll as Amber Von Tussle, who portrayed the unlikeable character superbly.

The costumes and scenery were even full of glitz and glamour, I couldn’t stop looking at the gorgeous sequined dresses saunter across stage.

It was a performance that drew warmth, something that makes you both laugh and cry – in fact I had forgotten just how funny the show was.

The standing ovation was well deserved and it felt a fitting way to end an incredible show.

Hairspray is at Sunderland Empire from January 10-15. Tickets from https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/hairspray-the-musical/sunderland-empire/

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