You can't stop the beat with the incredible, full of life new stage production of smash-hit musical Hairspray which is currently touring venues across the UK. With many adaptations both on screen with such likes of the 2007 film that starred Zac Efron and John Travolta in it as well as many stage productions in the past, there was even a Hairspray Live show late last year. It's no surprise then that audiences still love the story of Tracy Turnblad, an enthusiastic teenager who isn't ashamed of who she is and determined to make the change that is desperately needed in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Her lifelong dream is to dance on the local TV dance program known as The Crony Collins Show. Tracy soon becomes an overnight sensation, then launching a campaign to integrate the show. Set in the 1960's when the Civil Rights Movement was very much alive, Hairspray sits amongst all of the racism and is a real snippet of understanding the need for equality. 

Photo Darren Bell
Whilst it's political message is beneath the surface and very much there, the UK Tour production is choreographically one of the best shows making its way around the country right now. Expect lots of wow factor, dancing on your feet and singing along to the show's iconic soundtrack. 

I caught up with young actors Layton Williams and Rebecca Mendoza about the production it was clear that they were really excited about getting the tour underway at their first venue in Cardiff.

Layton had previously played the principal role of Seaweed as a previous touring production, therefore, he was definitely keen to get into the role and make it his own. "I feel like it's a completely new approach because when you only get to do it as a cover, even though I was lucky enough to have scheduled shows, you didn't get enough practice with it". Layton really enjoys the opportunity to develop new ideas into the role and immersing himself into more than just his principal role; "It's about bringing my own to it and I like doing thing full out. I don't want to be wasted, I don't want to be backstage. I don't want to be a principal who just comes on and says their lines, I want to do all the choreography, I want to be in as many numbers as I can". You won't be able to miss his undeniable flare at choreography, he's easily noticeable throughout the entire production and stands out amongst the rest, especially when he throws his body into a backwards flip.

To prepare him for such vigorous and demanding choreography Layton described how he set himself up. "We have a big group warm up, so we'll have a warm-up for an hour and a half before the show. That kind of gets get me going, to be honest". He went on to say how the show is a "nice warm up" for him both physically and vocally so by the time his solo performance of Run And Tell That is underway when he's "ready to come through, there's no doubt in my mind that I'm ready". 

Layton Williams as Seaweed. Photo Darren Bell
I asked whether coming back to the role meant he brought something he did before or whether he thought this was a great opportunity for him to ignite some of his own pazzazz into it. "It's definitely none of the sort I've done before, it's re-imagined, it's more exciting I think. It's adding more elements to it that maybe other people playing Seaweed have never done before".

 "It's definitely none of the sort I've done before, it's re-imagined, it's more exciting I think. It's adding more elements to it that maybe other people playing Seaweed have never done before". 
For Rebecca Mendoza on the other hand, fresh from graduating in July 2017 from the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London she is taking on the ultimate professional debut in the professional world. For Rebecca it's still very exciting to be up there leading a big cast in the UK Tour, she describes it as "crazy, there isn't actually any word to describe what it feels like". She also mentioned how she still felt "shivers across her whole body all of the time". However, taking on the leading lady role is still something Rebecca is adapting to, but it's easy to forget that all of this is still very new to her. The transition from being at college to then doing a show 7 days a week with all of her energy is one of the biggest challenges since joining the cast; "I'm still getting used to not being able to stop and rest, it's building that stamina of going and going". The whole experience itself has given Rebecca the opportunity to learn everything so quickly, "this is an incredible time for me to learn all of this in and because I'm doing literally everything, I'm learning all of the time".

Rebecca Mendoza as Tracy Turnblad. Photo Darren Bell
When you see the incredible performance from the cast it's astounding how quickly it has transferred from the rehearsal room to the main stage. Layton mentioned that they spent "over a month down in London and when we arrived here we had a couple of days, two of which were with the set". Nonetheless, Layton definitely states that they had their show "ready in London". 

Hairspray had an instant effect on Rebecca when she was first encountered it back in 2007. "I watched it when the movie came out with Zac Efron in it. I saw it on stage in Liverpool first, 3 times in a row, 7 years ago to the day that we opened here in Cardiff. My sister found it on Facebook and I commented on that photo saying I hope to be on this show one day".

"My sister found it on Facebook and I commented on that photo saying I hope to be in this show one day".
Layton's first encounter with the musical was in 2008 when "we did a little cabaret of it at my school and I was like I quite like this but you know when you're a kid you don't really think I'm going to play this part.  I kind of had it in my head but I didn't say it out loud. It's amazing [how] it happens, for a black young boy these kind of roles are iconic. They are the ones you certify with if you're good enough. There are not that many roles out there so you know like Tyrone in Fame for example so it's always something you look up towards".

When portraying the two very different roles in Hairspray Rebecca said that "I feel like you have to have to put your own personality into the character". She mentioned that they combine the basic traits of the individual character with characteristics and personalities of their own. "You have to blend their personality what is on paper to you, that's what makes such a truthful performance. You can't fake it on stage". Rebecca is very passionate about her role as Tracy, "this show has been my life from day one, I feel like I've just become Tracy. I watched it so many times! I went to that audition and I was like I am Tracy".

Layton agreed that there "has to be heart in it". He discussed that his character was definitely different to his personality, "we are different in many ways but then actually I am a bit of a show-off, I like to do the most". Layton's passions definitely lie within the choreographic elements of the show, "I love to slay the choreography, those aspects of performing are very me".

Don't miss an incredible performance from Layton and Rebecca in the UK Tour of Hairspray.

You can catch them locally this year at Birmingham Hippodrome from the 09 Oct - 14 Oct before they take to the stage in Leicester at the Curve Theatre between 16 Oct - 21 Oct. 
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