THE strange and dazzling work of legendary filmmaker John Waters has, over many years, reassured generations of weird kids that it’s ok not to fit in, that there’s real beauty in being a misfit and strength in non-conformity.

That rebellious spirit was showcased to great effect at the opening performance of Hairspray the Musical, currently being staged at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre.

The lively and colourful adaptation of Waters’ 1988 classic captured the energy, edginess and politics of the subversive film, with a talented cast breathing new life into the story of dance-crazed Tracy Turnblad and her life in 1960’s Baltimore.

The Northern Echo:

Played by a bold, vivacious and strong-voiced Rebecca Mendoza in her professional debut, Tracy dreams of dancing her way onto a national TV show.

As the audience follows her, the beautifully and unapologetically fat teenager becomes a figure of resistance, battling superficial beauty standards at the same time as fighting for equality in a society still segregated by race.

The Northern Echo:

The award-winning musical, with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, is heart-warming and it is important, the morality running through to its core arguably as relevant now as it ever has been.

The show’s leading lady captivates at the centre of a faultless cast that also features Norman Pace - of Hale and Pace fame – perfecting his comedic turn as Tracy’s father, Wilbur Turnblad.

Layton Williams, playing the politically-charged Seaweed – a young black man putting himself at risk by embarking upon a mixed-race relationship – is another notable presence on stage.

The highly entertaining show is currently touring the UK and is in Sunderland for one week only, with 7.30pm performances being staged nightly until Saturday, September 30 and 2.30pm shows taking place on Wednesday and Saturday.

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