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Smith partners Ball in Hairspray

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 18 April 2008

Comedian and actor Mel Smith is to make his West End musical debut playing Michael Ball’s husband in Hairspray, which comes to the Shaftesbury on 11 October (press night 30 October).

Smith has been cast as Wilbur Turnblad, opposite Ball, who was already announced in the traditionally-drag role of overbearing mother Edna Turnblad. The odd couple are the parents of Tracy Turnblad (newcomer Leanne Jones), the big-hearted, big-haired girl determined to win a spot on the local television dance show – and the heart of the dishy Link Larkin – so becoming an irrepressible teen celebrity in 1962 Baltimore.

Though he first found fame with Not The Nine O’Clock News in 1979, Smith is best known for his comedy double act with Griff Rhys Jones and the television sketch shows they created together, beginning with Alas Smith And Jones. He has co-directed the films The Tall Guy, Bean – The Ultimate Disaster Movie and High Heels And Low Lifes, and acted in films including Twelfth Night, Wilt, National Lampoon’s European Vacation and The Princess Bride. On stage, he played Churchill in Allegiance in Edinburgh last year, adapted and starred in An Hour And A Half Late on tour in 2006 and directed Stephen Tompkinson in Charley’s Aunt, which came to Richmond in April this year.

Ben James-Ellis, one of the runners-up in Joseph TV talent search Any Dream Will Do, joins the cast to play teen heartthrob Link Larkin. Further casting is still to be confirmed.

Hairspray The Musical is written by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman. Based on the 1988 John Waters film, which starred Ricki Lake, the musical premiered on Broadway in 2002, winning eight Tony Awards the following year. A film of the musical, with an all-star cast including John Travolta, Christopher Walken and Michelle Pfeiffer, was released this year.

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