• John Murray

Hairspray for all

I do like a Homecoming and this week a young actress comes close when Hayley Johnston played the mighty stage of the Edinburgh Playhouse this week. She was raised in Falkirk you see and joined the family performing school


Theatre School aged only two. I caught up with her this week and she is looking

forward to catching up with family and friends.

She told me ‘Next week we play Dartford then for the final week we come to Glasgow’ so even more chances to renew acquaintances. She went on to join Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom before graduating with First Class Honors in professional dance and musical theatre at Urdang Academy. Hayley has enjoyed great parts in Sticky Notes in 2014 and Fame: the Musical in 2020 both in the West End and on tour. For this UK wide tour, she plays Brenda in Hairspray as a student at Patterson Park High School then as a dancer on the Corny Collins Show on TV.

The stage musical won 8 Tony Awards and 4 Olivier Awards and was based on the 1988 movie and all set in Baltimore 1962. This allows for big hair, swirling skirts and great beat music from that era. Tracey Turnblad played brilliantly by Katie Brace dreams of appearing on the local TV dance show and her audition makes her an instant local star meaning she now has a voice for promoting equality in a mixed-race segregated America as it was. She was given a deserved ovation for her energetic nonstop role. Alex Bourne is unmissable as Edna Turnblad adding a new dimension in camp comedy playing Tracey’s mum, Bernadette Bangura was a truly amazing understudy as Motormouth Maybelle and what a surprise to see Norman Pace as a convincing Wilber Turnblad as we all know him from his years as one half of the comedy duo Hale & Pace.

Their TV series ran for ten years and the characters Ron & Ron known as ‘The Management’ became favourites and they even had a No 1 single for Comic Relief for the fake dance craze ‘The Stonk’. Norman strutted and stomped the stage with ease and great comic timing and a superb foil for Edna his wife.

Hayley tells me they are all great to work with and do help the younger cast members along the way. It all helps as she had to understudy at times on this tour for both Amber and Penny Pingleton parts.

There are around 56 people on the tour when you add the crew & wardrobe people and of course it is a live band on stage throughout the show. With songs like the opening Good Morning Baltimore, the era defining Welcome To The 60’s, the dance hit Madison and of course You Can’t Stop The Beat which is truly spectacular finale. I had forgotten how many great songs are in here, it was a wonderful evening.

Hairspray runs until Saturday (19th) at Edinburgh Playhouse. Tickets HERE

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