Archive for July 10th, 2008

Review – Hairspray – Shaftesbury Theatre, London

July 10, 2008

Way, way back at the dawn of time (in the theater sense, so four months back), I was idly crusing LastMinute.com and saw they had 20 quid tickets for Hairspray. Hairspray! The show everyone I know loves and which never makes it to the TKTS booth! For twenty quid! Well, the sad thing was that in order to get these great tickets, I had to book waaaaay in advance, but I found four seats available on a night when Michael Ball was performing (that is, not on a Monday and before October 25th), invited two friends of mine to come with me and J, and … well, sat and waited for months and months for the big day to finally arrive.

This leads into last night, which was FINALLY spent watching Hairspray with Bathtubgingirl and Spikeylady (as well as, and of course, my husband). I can see that the hype has been, well, not just hype. The songs were really fun (I like the 60s musical style), the costumes were great, and the big dance scenes were awesome. I can now see why Booklectic has been again and again. Clearly she’s not the only one, as a plaid-shirted teenager a few seats over was singing along to the final number. I bet all of the actors in all of the other musicals on in London right now are wishing they could work in this show – the energy was really high and the quality of the performers was tops. It was, as ever, sold out. I hadn’t seen either of the Hairspray movies, but I’m glad I went into it knowing nothing, as it meant it was all one fun surprise for me. I could probably go on about it ad nauseum but there have been so many great reviews of it that I feel like I can’t add much more (and am, in fact, mostly just writing about it here to record that I finally went).

I’d like to add that this was the most amazingly fat-positive show I’ve ever seen. I don’t mean that it was about how gaining weight is great; it actually addressed the issues of anti-fat prejudice straight on, and had the message, “You can do it! Be yourself!” This was great. I mean, it’s one thing to be overweight and have health issues, but why should feeling like a failure be so much a part of the experience of being a fat person? Is it pleasant to hang out with people who hate themselves, or to feel that way about yourself? Wouldn’t you look up to, say, a person in a wheelchair who had a sunny attitude? And yet, if you remember highschool, “gimps” and “crips” got all sorts of hatred and attitude thrown their way. Hairspray had an immensely positive message about liking yourself as you are and not letting other people’s hatred get you down, and I really, really liked that. I must add … for my two girlfriends, who have issues about their weight, this was a GREAT play for them to see, and I just hope it can help them look in the mirror and see how gorgeous they are – because they are!

The play also dealt with (in a not heavy way) the issues of race at this time in history. I really liked seeing racism handled head-on, showing both the good and the bad and, well, just the fair amount of subtlety in terms of how the race issue existed/exists in America. Unfortunately none of the black characters really had a whole lot of dimensionality to them, but, well, I guess that doesn’t really reflect the author’s experience.

Anyway, if you’ve been holding off because you can’t get good priced seats … you’re going to probably still be waiting a while. On the other hand, if you think it’s not worth it … splash out, get floor seats, and I promise you a great night out at the best musical currently playing on the West End. Don’t miss it!

Summer Strallen insulted in OK Magazine

July 10, 2008

Ever since I saw The Drowsy Chaperone, Summer Strallen has been at the top of my list of “top actresses to see in a West End musical.” The way she kicks! The way she sings! She’s the whole package, the triple threat, and she’s really a treat to see on stage. I mean, I have never seen a show twice in a week, but I went back just to see her (and because the show was closing).

Once Drowsy closed I looked around online, hoping to find news of her returning to the stage (when? where?), but I had a long wait as she’d pulled some TV work (no luck seeing her in a panto last year, boo!). Then she got the role of Maria in Sound of Music (not West Side Story, boo again), which, well, was kind of good because it put her back on stage, but also bad because, well, it’s not exactly a role requiring a lot of dancing so it’s a waste of her tremendous talent (and it’s, er, The Sound of Music, so not something I’m particularly interested in seeing).

That said, I was excited to see an article about her in trashy rag Ok Magazine (which for some reason we have a copy of in my office’s breakroom). It was “Summer in summer wear” or something fluffy like that, basically a fashion spread, with Summer looking lovely in floral frocks.

However, I found the article made OK Magazine look really bad, as the very first sentence in it is, “Going from soap actress to stage star isn’t the most likely of paths …”

WHAT??? Was that a misprint? What Summer did was go from stage star to soap actress! But no, per OK, it seems that Summer’s life began when she got a job on a TV show. There is not a word of her earlier work anywhere in the article, not even about her turn in Dick Whittington at the Barbican. Perhaps this is some kind of sop to the OK readers, whom OK assumes must not do much besides watch TV, but I found it insulting to Summer as a theater professional that OK would wipe out her entire career by pretending it all started when she got a job on a soap opera. Summer did mention that she’s not getting to do any dancing, really, in her current show, which might indicate to some that perhaps there are other talents going on besides singing and acting … perhaps a hint of an earlier life … but no, nothing. At least the pictures looked great, and Summer sounded tremendously more classy than most of the women they were featuring in the magazine, but the questions! “Are you terribly critical about your looks, what kind of wedding do you fantasize about …” What kind of airhead reads this rag anyway? I wished they’d asked her some better questions but I still felt her personality came through, and she sounded really level headed. Who knows, maybe the interviewer was unimaginative.

That said, I was also sorry to read that Summer’s going to continue on in Sound of Music until February 2009. Gah, what a waste! This girl needs a role in a show where she can do some dancing again! Although I’m happy to see her continuously employed, I’d much rather have a chance to see her in a show where she can really show her stuff … say in Anything GoesWest Side StorySweet Charity