I’m sure that anyone who read my post on Gareth Gates being the new Joseph in November is in no doubt that I love musicals! But while I pride myself on being fairly knowledgeable about musicals in general – from old stalwarts like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to newer classics like Rent – there was one legendary musical film that I was ashamed to say I hadn’t seen. Ashamed, that is, until this weekend when I finally watched Hairspray – and I adored it.
Ok, well I should probably admit that it wasn’t actually the original 1988 film but the new remake starring John Travolta, Queen Latifah and Zac Efron. For anyone that doesn’t know what Hairspray is about, it’s set in 1960s Baltimore and revolves around Tracy Turnblad, a plump teenage girl who wants to be a dancer on a popular TV show; she eventually fights to get the programme racially integrated – but don’t worry, I won’t spoil the ending.
The film’s colourful exuberance really whetted my appetite for seeing all the other versions – including the current West End show in London, which features Michael Ball’s critically acclaimed performance as oversized 1960s housewife Edna Turnblad. The latter is probably more urgent for me since Michael stops performing in the show from mid-March, so I’m definitely taking a theatre break to see it very soon.
It did get me thinking though about the sheer volume of shows based on original films that are currently operating in the West End. There are more well-established successes like The Lion King and Billy Elliot but then there’s also Dirty Dancing, the upcoming Sister Act and even Priscilla Queen of the Desert, based on the off-the-wall Australian movie.
Pair these next to shows like Grease, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Chicago and Mamma Mia – all of which were turned into successful movies after their stage debuts – and it makes me wonder: have musicals started stealing their ideas from Hollywood, rather than the other way round?
I’m still making up my mind, but suffice to say that my newfound love of Hairspray has made me very grateful for the stage version – it’s just even more Hairspray goodness for me to soak up!