Hairspray, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until Saturday, April 20

A remarkable professional debut from 22-year-old Freya Sutton makes it a night to remember in Southampton.

Just as he was always going to be, Mark Benton is terrific as the buxom, rather-butch Edna Turnblad, the mother hen with the heart of gold.

But the show rightly belongs to Sutton as Edna’s sparky daughter Tracy, a girl with the sense to like herself for who she is – and along the way strikes a massive blow for racial integration.

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Marginalised for being somewhat tubbier than the willowy girls who shine on TV, Tracy aligns herself with the black community marginalised because of the colour of their skin.

Together, they’re a formidable alliance – and they make things happen, bringing the house down in a fantastic finale which sends everyone home smiling.

This is a musical which nails some serious issues from equality to self-belief, from strength of character to courage of conviction – but its brilliance is that it is never for a moment preachy or po-faced.

It’s a blast from start to finish, helped by some wonderful choreography, top performances all round and a host of songs which will have you arguing all the way home as to which one was the best. The real answer is that they all were.

Hairspray is the ultimate breath of fresh air – a feel-good stage show which will still feel good the next morning.

Lucy Benjamin gives lovely support as Velma Von Tussle, not least when she gets her come-uppance.

Phil Hewitt