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.