Mark of quality
I T'S 1962, the 50s are out and change is in the air. Baltimore's Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, has only one passion – dancing. She wins a spot on the local TV dance programme, The Corny Collins Show and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity.
But can a trendsetting hair-hopper like Tracy get her massively shy Mom out of the apartment, beat evil Amber to be crowned Miss Hairspray, integrate Corny's show for good... and win the heart of local heartthrob Link Larkin, all without denting her super high 'do'?
If anyone can, Tracy can.
That's the premise of the musical Hairspray, which will be running at the Theatre Royal next year, starring Mark Benton in the lead role.
"I can't wait to start Hairspray, it's going to be amazing fun and an interesting challenge for me as it's my first adventure into the world of musicals," he says.
"That I get to go on that adventure playing a Baltimore housewife is an added bonus!"
He adds: "As a musical I think it has everything; great songs, great script, really interesting story and lots and lots of laughs... I hope!"
Benton has been a regular on stage and screen for the past decade, in a variety of roles, from comedy to drama and children's shows.
They include Early Doors, Eureka Street, Catterick with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, The Second Coming, City Lights, Booze Cruise, Land Girls, Doctor Who and The Street.
He can currently be seen as Chalky in the BBC series Waterloo Road.
On stage he has appeared in work at the National Theatre, the Old Vic, the Lyric Hammersmith, the Donmar Warehouse, the Royal Court and the RSC. He last appeared on a Nottingham stage at the Playhouse two years ago, starring in A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg.
Hairspray opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London five years ago, recouping its multi-million pound expenditure in record-breaking time.
The show received universal critical acclaim and smash hit business and eventually played more than 1,000 performances to well over a million people.
At the 2008 Olivier Awards, it won Best Musical, as well as a further three awards from a record breaking eleven nominations. The show has also won Best Musical at the Evening Standard Awards, the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers Choice awards, the Critics' Circle Awards and the Variety Club Showbiz Awards.
It embarked on its first UK tour in 2010 playing to nearly 750,000 people in sold out houses across Britain.
The tour included a run at the Theatre Royal, with former Brookside actor Michael Starke in the role of Edna Turnblad.
Further afield the show has played at venues around the world, including six years on Broadway, and won more than 40 major theatre awards.
The latest tour will open in Manchester in February.
Producer Rebecca Quigley says: "Just the mention of Hairspray guarantees a huge smile from anyone you talk to and we felt it was high time that people across the country get to see Tracy, Edna, Wilbur and the gang again.
"Hairspray is one of the most warm-hearted, positive and joyous musicals I've had the pleasure of working on and the smiles have got even bigger now we know our cast will be lead by the incalculably talented Mark Benton."