Messages wrapped in song and dance

HAIRSPRAY is set in the 1960s and based on a John Waters film from 1988 – but there’s no danger of the latest musical tour seeming dated.

The show’s hard-hitting storylines are as relevant today as they were 60 years ago, according to Brenda Edwards, who stars as Motormouth Maybelle.

THOUGHT PROVOKING – Brenda Edwards leads the cast of the musical Hairspray, which comes to Woking next week. Picture: Mark Senior

Set in Baltimore in 1962, the story follows Tracy Turnblad (Katie Brace), who is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way on to national TV, although the odds are stacked against the big girl with big hair. Along the way it touches on racism, sexism and sizeism.

“It was one of the reasons why I wanted to do it in the first place, because I thought it was good for educating myself as well as to educate other people,” says Brenda, who shot to fame in the 2005 The X Factor.

“I’m very much a believer that we’re all the human race and it should not matter about colour. But I think it’s important to have these sort of stories to show how times have changed and how they used to be.

“It’s not just about colour, it’s about females in certain roles back in the day. Coming out of lockdown now with everything that’s been going on over in America and over here in terms of racial inequalities, it’s a good show to make people think.

Set in 1962, Hairspray’s storyline touches on hard hitting topics such as civil rights protests, racism, sizeism and sexism

“Like I said, it’s got some hard-hitting storylines but it’s not about cramming anything down anyone’s throats. It’s more like: ‘Have a think. Does this apply to you? Search within yourself and see if you can do better’.”

Brenda, who has appeared in shows such as Chicago and We Will Rock You since emerging through TV’s The X Factor, says musical theatre has been a ‘happy accident’ for her.

“I grew up singing in the Pentecostal church so I’ve always sung in big venues,” she explains. “I’ve never had any training or singing lessons, I just open my mouth and it comes out. I’m very grateful how things have turned out.

Chicago was the first musical that came my way, while I was still on The X Factor, and I was asked to audition for it.

“Since then, it’s been just lovely being on stage, and as much as I hadn’t thought about it as a career I’m very glad I got that call to do Chicago.

“Performing is what I love doing, with singing being my first love without a doubt. I don’t think there are a lot of people who can hand-on-heart say they’re doing exactly what they’re passionate about.

“I actually did want to go to performing arts school but my grandmother, who raised me, was very much against it, so I went to college and studied accounts instead.

“I had a very successful career with that but it’s nice that I’ve managed to come back round to what I really wanted to do all those years ago when I was 17 or 18 and leaving school.”

Brenda Edwards will star in Hairspray at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday (15 November) until Saturday 20 November.

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