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Talbot takes on Wilbur in Hairspray

Published 17 April 2008

Ian Talbot, who last year stepped down as Artistic Director of the Open Air theatre after 20 years, is to play Wilbur Turnblad in Hairspray from 28 January, when current Wilbur, Mel Smith, leaves the show.

Talbot, who joined the Open Air as an actor in 1971 before becoming Artistic Director, has directed over 20 productions at the leafy venue in Regent’s Park. His many successful shows include The Pirates Of Penzance in 2000, for which he received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best Director, the musical High Society, which transferred to the West End following its premiere at the Open Air in 2003, The Boy Friend in 2006, which he both directed and starred in, and last year’s Lady Be Good!

As an actor Talbot has performed in the West End and with the RSC, and has television credits including Midsomer Murders, The Bill, Poirot, As Time Goes By, Heartbeat and Doctor Who. He was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List this year.

In Hairspray, which opened at the Shaftesbury on 30 October 2007, Talbot joins a cast which includes Leanne Jones as Tracy Turnblad, Michael Ball as Edna Turnblad and Ben James-Ellis as Link Larkin.

As joke-shop owner Wilbur, Talbot plays the husband of Edna and father of Tracy, the big-hearted, big-haired girl who just wants to dance. Set in 1960s Baltimore, the musical follows Tracy as she auditions for the local television dance show, the Corny Collins Show. But when she encounters racist and sizeist attitudes, Tracy’s desire to dance becomes a mission to change the world, or, at least, Baltimore, and win the heart of Link Larkin the process. em>CB

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