Thursday, June 05, 2008

I ♥ Musicals, Deal With It

I'm not ashamed to admit that I like musicals. It's in my blood - my great-grandparents were singers in the D'oyly Carte Opera (which pretty much invented the genre of the popular musical, performing the accessible and often humorous works of Gilbert & Sullivan), and I've been in dozens of amateur productions myself. It's been a few years now since I graced the stage, but I still like to go and watch other people leaping around and expressing themselves through the medium of song now and again. Of course it doesn't always work, and there are some dodgy productions out there that drag down the good name of the musical altogether. I recently tried to watch the film of Rent on DVD and had to turn off after 20 minutes, it was such a depressingly flat affair. To me, musicals should be jolly and uplifting, or at least have a good story and some memorable songs.

The last couple of West End productions I've seen - Avenue Q and Wicked - were both brilliant, and hard acts to follow, so when the lovely Neel announced that he wanted to go and see Hairspray on his birthday, I was somewhat dubious. But going on adventures with Neel is always fun, and with a gang of 15 signed up for it, I knew we'd have a giggle even if the show wasn't all that. But as it turned out, I quite enjoyed it. Never having seen either of the films, I was oblivious to the plot, which is a good thing in itself - with so many musicals you already know what's going to happen and just have to hope that the songs are enough to keep you amused. In the case of Hairspray, it's a pretty obvious rise of the underdog tale, set in 1960s Baltimore when racial segregation was still the norm. With full marks for feel-good factor, this new production is bursting with energy and humour, with a classic performance from Michael Ball in (almost believeable) drag. I know that a lot of people find him irritating, but I have a secret soft spot for old dimple cheeks. No one could deny that he has great stage presence, and a lovely singing voice. Admittedly, he did milk some of the comedy moments a little too much, but more in the over-the-top spirit of the show than through wanton self-indulgence.

The costumes were fabulous, and made me want to get straight onto ebay and treat myself to some vintage frocks. I found myself foot-tapping (though not clapping along - why do people do that?) through lots of the songs, and can even imagine one or two of them making their way into my DJ setlist repertoire. Most of all, it was lovely to break up the week with a cultural adventure, even if it did mean braving the cattletrucks and crowded streets to get across London. It also made me feel more excited about my own imminent return to the stage this Sunday, as part of a charity concert in aid of St Wilfrid's Hospice at Hailsham Pavilion. The last I heard, there were still a few tickets left (available from 01323 841414) if anyone feels inclined to witness this *ahem* historic event.

1 comment:

  1. Hairspray is a fantastic show and Michael Ball's Edna is thoroughly convincing and has got even more so over the 8 months the show has been open. It's a shame we don't get to hear him in full voice during the show. Long may Hairspray continue to go from strength to strength. Bravo to everyone who is involved in this wonderful production

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