Review: Hairspray – The Apex

Question: When is an am-dram musical as good as a professional production?
Answer: When it’s performed by The CTC.

I cannot praise The CTC enough the attention to perfection is up there with many a West End production.

Last year’s offering over the Christmas/New Year period was Cats which was breath-taking…. so how do you match such praise? Quite simply by heading back to the 60s with the Broadway Musical version of Hairspray.

The musical is based on the 1988 film Hairspray. The songs include 1960s-style dance music and rhythm and blues.

In 1962 Baltimore, Maryland, plump teenager Tracy Turnblad (superbly played by Nancy Doubledee) has a dream is to dance on The Corny Collins Show, a local TV dance programme. When Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight, and meets a colourful array of characters, leading to social change as Tracy campaigns for the show’s integration of blacks and whites.

The story cleverly records the struggle of blacks in America in the 60s, but also manages to include some great comedic performances as well.

Tracy’s mum, Edna, is a role traditionally played by a male actor (in the UK most memorably by Michael Ball), CDC’s Director Bridie Rowe has cast Ben Kearney in the role…. Edna’s character is a big one and requires a strong actor to carry it off and this is achieved with ease by Ben.

Hairspray has a big cast and for some of the song and dance numbers most of the cast are on stage at the same time, The Apex is not a big stage, but clever choreography means that the performance does not look clumsy.

It’s usual in a review to single out some standout performances, not so easy here as the whole cast excel. However if you are going to twist my arm I have to mention Maia Elsey as the geeky Penny waiting to turn into a butterfly.

But truly stealing the entire show for me was newcomer to stage musicals (although a regular on the pub singer circuit) Vania Lima as Motormouth, this young lady has an astonishing voice and I could have easily been tempted back to another performance just to hear her sing again.

Forget West End touring shows for The CTC prove that sometimes local companies can equally match the big names!

Hairspray, The Apex, Bury St Edmunds
30th December 2017 – 2nd January 2018

If you’d like to know more about The CTC, see

Review: Mark Keable, Ipswich24
Pictures: Mike Kwasniak