Hairspray the Musical comes to Oxford
Hairspray is a musical based on the 1988 film of the same name which starred Divine and Ricki Lake by cult filmmaker John Waters
With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Hairspray originally opened to rave reviews on Broadway in 2002 and subsequently won eight Tony Awards.
The production opened in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2007 and won four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical. Proving to be an international success, Hairspray has also opened in South Africa, Japan, South Korea, China and Dubai. Following the musical’s phenomenal success on stage, a film of the musical was released in 2007 which starred John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Marsden.
This big, bold and beautiful musical comedy will begin its 2015 UK tour at Leicester’s Curve theatre on 9 September 2015 and will then tour over 25 venues across the UK, including a Christmas residency at Birmingham Alexandra Theatre.
Tony Maudsley will play Edna Turnblad. Well known for his long-running role on ITV1’s Benidorm as Kenneth, Tony is an acclaimed actor of both stage and screen. Tony has previously appeared on stage in A Day in Dull Armour (Royal Court Theatre), Dogs Barking (Bush Theatre) and South Pacific (UK Tour). In addition to his hugely popular role in Benidorm, Tony has recently appeared on screen in The Job Lot, New Tricks, Mo and Doc Martin. On top of Tony’s extensive television credits, his film appearances have included roles in Jack Thorne’s The Scouting Book for Boys, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Vanity Fair and Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things.
Sam Bennett spoke to Tony about Julie Walters, Benidorm and following large women down the street!
You’ve worked with some big-name, talented actors – has there been a particular favourite?
That’s really easy to answer. My favourite person to have worked with – who I’ve actually worked with three times – is Julie Walters.
As bigger star as she is…she’s the most humble and accommodating actress I’ve ever worked with. I learnt how to conduct myself at work from Julie. As well as being highly skilled at what she does, she’s always so prepared for what she’s about to perform. Her demeanour around people makes them feel comfortable in her presence. I just follow her example.
Is she a method actor?
No, far from it.
Looks-wise she’s gone to some lengths. I did the Mo Mowlam film with her and she shaved her head which I thought was so admirable. It hurt her deeply to do it; she cried and cried and cried. I thought it was so brave of her to do that. She could have opted for a headpiece over her own hair but I think she wanted to feel that exposure.
But she doesn’t come to work and walk on to set as a character. She walks on to set, has a great laugh with everybody and then turns herself into one of these amazing characters she’s created.
Moving on to Hairspray, you’re taking up the role of Edna. First off it’s a cult film and then it’s a much loved musical and musical film – do you feel the pressure?
There’s been some fantastic carnations of Hairspray over the years. And there’s been many different guises of Edna so I don’t feel too pressured to fit a mould; I feel like I’ve got licence to create my own Edna for 2015.
My own pressure is not to be crap because all the others have been so good – whatever way they’ve chosen to play it. I don’t want to be the rubbish one!
And I think it’s one of those shows that is so enjoyable and it’s got such a following…you’ve got to be really bad to get it wrong; I hope that’s not me!
I imagine it’s one of those roles when you really become her when you get your wig, costume and make-up on; what do you do in the early stages though, before you’ve got all that on, how do you become Edna then?
Already now, for my own preparation, I’m watching and observing and following heavyset women down the street seeing how they walk and move!
I’m trying to understand this woman of her time. It was an amazing time. It was also quite frightening for some people, especially the older people. Things in the 60s started to move so fast and some people just got scared…like Edna.
She’s lived such a sheltered life hasn’t she?
She has. Instead of embracing modern life she shrinks away from it, doesn’t leave her apartment and becomes this quite sad lady. It’s only when her daughter leads her by the hand that she does rebuild her confidence and flowers again.
It’s a character of many, many layers. That’s what I want to do…I want people to see those layers.
I have to ask you a bit about Benidorm; you’re known for playing quite an eccentric character in that as well. Is it tricky when you’re playing another eccentric in Hairspray to stop Kenneth slipping in?
The thing is about Kenneth and Edna is that they’ve got some similarities but they’re also so different.
Similarly they’re very loyal to people around them; they care a lot about these people.
The biggest difference is Kenneth has this confidence that goes through the roof and is very rarely compromised; Edna just doesn’t have this. Kenneth is a very proud gay man; Edna, while being played by a man, is a shrinking, unconfident female.
Their souls, in a way, are quite different; I don’t think there’s any chance of me merging one into the other.
Could Edna be played by a woman?
She could. I think it’s a choice rather than a necessity that Edna has always been cast as a man. It’s a push John Waters made and it’s stuck. And it’s a good one because a lot of the show is about challenging prejudice and, although it doesn’t talk about transgender specifically, it’s another ingredient of that.
How are you going to deal with touring?
It’s a long time since I’ve done it. The last time I toured was 18 years ago in another musical. Most of my life revolves around London; I’ve done so much television in and around there over the past 20 years. I want to challenge myself and step back into the theatre which is a bit scary but something I want to do. And it’s going to be brilliant getting away from London for 6 months!
Also I get to meet the fans of Benidorm who I rarely get to meet. I shoot it March-June and then I kind of forget about it. Then it comes back on TV in January and gets this huge reaction. I think, for once, I’ll go enjoy that northern reaction outside of London which I’ve not really enjoyed before.
If you had to choose between touring a musical for the rest of your career and staying on TV for the rest of it…what would you do?
Well I’ll let you into a little secret…TV shows pay a lot more! That alone would make me choose the TV shows!
Hairspray will be directed by Paul Kerryson, with choreography by Drew McOnie and musical direction by Ben Atkinson. The show has music and lyrics by Academy Award, Tony and Emmy winning duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
Hairspray is produced by Mark Goucher and Laurence Myers, Tom O’Connell for QNQ, Just for Laughs Theatricals, Gale King Productions and Curve theatre, Leicester.
The show comes to New Theatre Oxford 21-28 September 2015 (7:30pm with 2:30pm matinee performances on Wednesday and Saturday).
Tickets can be purchased from the New Theatre box office on George Street, by ringing 0844 871 3020 or by visiting our website (phone and internet bookings subject to booking/transaction fee).
For bookings of 10 or more, or for Equal Access bookings, please call our dedicated in-house team on 0844 871 3040.
Top Image - Tony Maudsley (Edna Turnblad) in Hairspray (Credit: Ellie Kurttz)
Related Article: Theatre Highlights for Autumn 2015