Hot on the sparkling stilleto heels of the smash hit Heathers, the Empire has another big hitter - the exhilirating Hairspray.

The first night of a much-awaited, week-long run saw the ever-responsive Liverpool fans of top-notch musicals show they are up for a great night out after Covid restrictions turned theatre on its head. 

Hairspray is a welcome piece of entertainment with a social message.

Producer Mark Goucher knows the true appeal of Hairspray as he says in the programme notes: "I beleive theatre has an obligation to both educate and entertain. There is a bucket load of laughs in this show but the message of striving to break down prejudice in all walks of life shines through."

Wirral Globe: Katie Brace plays Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. Photo: Mark SeniorKatie Brace plays Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. Photo: Mark Senior

Hear hear.

Based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name, this production was last here in 2018 and it was hard to improve on that outing. Happily, the producers have done it and  to great effect.

It has a cracking soundtrack delivered via stunning individual and collective performances. The energetic ensemble cast look as though they are having a ball - and this transmits immediately to the audience.

We are transported back to the Baltimore of 1962 when racial segregation was a grotesque way of life. People judged each other on appearances and the colour of their skin. Sadly - things haven't really changed.

The brilliance of this gag-crammed Hairspray is that sheer, unabashed fun - courtesy of catchy songs and sizzling choreography - also has such a strong backdrop.

Back screen projections of 60s civil right protests say it all.

Wirral Globe: Photo: Mark SeniorPhoto: Mark Senior

Hairspray opened on Broadway in 2002 and never looked back - a permanent fixture on the global touring circuit.

This is a lively two and half hour musical comedy including interval tells the story of bubbly Tracey Turnblad played by Katie Brace making her exceptional stage debut.

Her winning personality is evident from the moment we see her singing the opener Good Morning Baltimore from her bedroom.

You care about her character as you do about her mum Edna played - on press night by a charming Paul Hutton.

Norman Pace - popular comedian from the Hale and Pace duo - is back in a role he has made his own as the optimistic hubby Wilbur.

Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Myabelle is simply oustanding and caused a standing ovation befire the finale. Quiet an achievement.

The show closes with a stunning version of the classic showstopper You Can't Stop the Beat.

Make an appointmet for Hairspray - you'll feel better for it.


Globe verdict:  Five stars

Hair Force!

Liverpool Empire - ends on Saturday.

Box office: 0844 871 3017