Q&A with Hairspray star Lizzie Bea

Updated on 28 September 2020

You can’t stop the beat! Hairspray will be returning to the famous London Coliseum, from the original award-winning creative team of director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. The dazzling production will also see Michael Ball reprise his Olivier Award-winning role as Edna Turnblad alongside an incredible cast including Lizzie Bea. The beloved musical featuring songs such as ‘Good Morning, Baltimore’, ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’, and ‘Big, Blonde and Beautiful’, will open for a limited season April 2021. Be sure to secure your Hairspray tickets now!

Ahead of the exciting performance from the cast of Hairspray on ITV's Britain’s Got Talent, we caught up with Lizzie Bea who will star as Tracy. Read below for a fun Q&A and see what Lizzie had to say!

Q&A with Hairspray star Lizzie Bea, who is making her West End debut as "Tracy" 

1. Tracy Turnblad is a dream role! Was it a dream role for you and what does it mean to get to play Tracy?

It’s always been a dream! In the casting bracket that I'm in, as like a plus-size woman, and you know, I've always been plus-sized, even as a teenager, it is that one role that kind of everyone knows that is in your casting. And people always say, ‘Oh my god, how haven’t you played that part!’ But I didn't think anyone thought this particular version of the show would come back. I thought I might be a bit old to be able to do it. So, it's just been really lucky timing with everything. It just means absolutely everything to get to do it. I relate a lot to Tracy and just kind of can't wait to kind of bring my version of Tracy to the stage.

2. Do you have any other dream roles? Musical theatre or otherwise.

I definitely do. So, it's funny, because it's a question that you get asked quite a lot. I've been doing teaching over zoom via lockdown, and Q&A's and staff, and people always ask this, and the one thing that I always say is what I'm extremely passionate about is the future of musical theatre and trying to break free from people being in these set casting brackets. I hope that things are moving in that direction, that it's kind of gonna matter less and less what you look like. Because I am within that casting bracket for Tracy that you have to be plus-size, it's in the script and it is really important. But there are roles that I would like to play where it's kind of pacified, or they have other features, which are more important than your size, your height or anything like that. So, my absolute number one dream role would be Elphaba. And they've never ever had a plus-sized person play that role before. I don't know. Maybe it could be me. So yes, I'd love to play Elphaba!

3. Hairspray has such an amazing score but is there one song that you’re most excited to sing?

I think it has to be a ‘Good Morning, Baltimore’. It is just an absolutely iconic song. I also like the fact that it opens the show and that everyone knows it. Before lockdown we had actually started rehearsing that number, and it was just so exciting! Knowing I'm still gonna be able to get to do it makes me really happy.

4. If you could play a character in Hairspray that isn’t Tracy, who would you play and why?

I think I'd have to say Inez, because I just think that it's such a fun character. In every show, there's like one character who has that moment and they just absolutely steal the show and that is just amazing when she does all those riffs and she's dancing around and singing…! And it's funny, because Kimani (Arthur) who's playing Inez in our show, none of us have heard her sing. But I know she's gonna be amazing because you have to have a cracking voice to play that part. So, I know when she finally does that bit in rehearsals, we’re all gonna be like, “Oh my God!” But yeah, it would have to be Inez. I think that's such a fun character.

5. You’re not only leading the cast of Hairspray in the West End but will be joined by legends such as Michael Ball and Marisha Wallace, what excites you about working with the Hairspray cast?

Firstly, l know, it's really cheesy and people always say it, but they are such a nice group of people. You know, it's a weird job when you're in theatre, because every time you do a new show, you are working with a completely different group of people and you don't know what they're gonna be like, but they are all so, so nice. Michael especially! I met him in my final audition. And then I did the launch with him and he is just so lovely and so supportive. He’s an absolute icon, not only of musical theatre but also a proper British treasure.

And then Marisha and Rita are both just lovely as well. For the Britain's Got Talent performance it was just so nice to spend some more time with them. It’s going to be brilliant and I think it's going to be really fun. It’s such a positive show that on stage, we're gonna have a really kind of incredible time as a cast.

6. The production has proven to be popular in the lead-up, even as it moves to 2021, why do you think Hairspray is still relevant and worth the wait?

It’s full of joy as a show and I think that's what everyone is gonna need when the West End reopens properly. It's really nice to see that hopefully, stuff is going to be happening really soon with what Nica Burns is doing, opening her theatres. Then hopefully, by the time we're back, everything can kind of happen with a massive boom. And I think Hairspray is kind of the perfect show to lift everyone's spirits. I also think that the themes are still so incredibly relevant. You know, during lockdown, the Black Lives Matter movement has been huge and obviously, racism is one of the big themes of Hairspray. Then kind of leading on from that just the general theme of accepting people for who they are, that’s a massive discussion that has been happening throughout lockdown in terms of we all need to show a bit more kindness and kind of work together as a team and stuff like that. I think Hairspray perfectly encapsulates everything that has been going on and the new world that we're going to be going into, so I think it will be the perfect show.

7. Theatres were closed due to the pandemic but what positives do you think the theatre industry can take away from this time?

I think the main thing is that I think people are gonna be so grateful just to be in jobs. It’s incredibly uncertain at the moment and this is why we, those of us who are in Hairspray, know how lucky we all have got a job. To know we're coming out the other side of this and we still get to do it. We know we're really lucky. I also think people are going to be a lot more careful about their health and just kind of do everything they can to make sure that themselves and everyone else is healthy. I just think people are gonna want to look after each other a lot more and, hopefully, the industry will be more supportive than it already has been. I think on social media, now, people are really happy for each other when they get jobs and that kind of thing so hopefully looks positives!

8. What excites you most about getting to perform on stage again?

I was thinking about this the other day because I went to go and see Pippin at The Eagle, which was amazing, and it was so nice to be back in a theatre. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I cannot wait to do that, again!’. It was hearing them all sing together in harmony. I just cannot wait for that moment when we're all together. As a cast, when we get to do like one of the big numbers, absolutely belting out, all in harmony, it's just everything. When you're in rehearsals and you kind of feel like you're creating a bit of magic. That's just what I absolutely cannot wait for!

9. How exciting is it to perform on stage at the world-renowned London Coliseum?

It sort of still doesn't feel real that it is happening. Every time I think about it, I'm like, yeah, it is actually quite a big deal. Because obviously, not many musicals go in there. I don't think many people can say that they've kind of done like a full scale musical there. So, I just feel really lucky to get to do it. And I've never performed in the West End before. So, it's been just so exciting. I know I'll be really nervous, but I just have to kind of like remember that I'm really lucky to be getting to do it.

10. In three words, why should people get tickets for Hairspray (if they can)?

Okay, so in three words, why should people get tickets for Hairspray? So, I had to think about this long and hard but eventually, I came up with the three words: burst of fabulousness. That would be my three-word description of Hairspray. And that's why people should come and see it!

By Jade Ali

A love for theatre stemmed from my love of literature and music, but the West End on my doorstep opened up a whole new appreciation and passion for all things stage-y