London Hairspray Finds Its Wilbur

News   London Hairspray Finds Its Wilbur British comedy actor and director Mel Smith has been cast in the London production of Hairspray as Wilbur, husband to the cross-dressing role of Edna Turnblad, which will be played by Michael Ball.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Smith said, "The idea of playing Michael Ball's wife – whoops! – husband, is a dream come true."

Smith, who became well known to British television audiences in the BBC sketch shows "Not the Nine O'Clock News" and "Alas Smith and Jones," will make his musical debut in the Tony-winning show.

Hairspray opens at London's Shaftesbury Theatre Oct. 30 following previews that begin Oct. 11. Previously, the Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman musical, which received a total of eight 2003 Tonys (including Best Musical), was booked at London's Adelphi Theatre but was delayed to avoid clashing with the release of "Hairspray" movie musical.

In the upcoming film, Travolta plays Edna Turnblad, the role that bagged Harvey Fierstein a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway production.

Set in 1960's Baltimore, the show is based on John Waters' 1988 movie of the same name. With a book by Marc O'Donnell, the story follows the fortunes of "pleasantly plump" Baltimore teenager Tracy Turnblad, who yearns to perform in the Corny Collins Dance Show. Transformed overnight from outsider to teen celebrity, Tracy's next mission is to vanquish the program's reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, and integrate a television show.

The Broadway hit, directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, premiered at New York's Neil Simon Theatre in 2002, where it continues to run.

Hairspray will be produced in London by Stage Entertainment with Margo Lion, The Baruch/Viertel/Routh/Frankel Group, New Line Cinema in association with others from the Broadway producing team.

London's Shaftesbury Theatre is currently hosting the fifth West End run of Fame.

For more information on Hairspray, call (0)207 379 5399.