HAIRSPRAY is such a big, bold and beautiful hit show, it comes as no surprise that Paul Kerryson's touring production has had a hair extension.

Eight additional venues have been added for the summer, among them the Grand Opera House in York from Monday, as the itinerary stretches into August.

Matt Rixon, no stranger to the York stage, returns to the larger-than-life role of Edna Turnblad, opposite Graham MacDuff as husband Wilbur and Rosie O’Hare in the leading part of daughter Tracy.

Hairspray, The Musical is based on John Walters' cult 1988 film of the same name that starred Divine and Ricki Lake and features music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Its storyline is set in 1962 Baltimore, where Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way on to national TV, whatever the obstacles.

Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality, bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way, and always with the support of mother Edna, Rixon's character.

"Oh, it's a great show, and quite different from my last time in York at the Theatre Royal, when I did The Legend Of King Arthur and See How They Run straight after that," says Matt, who played the magician Merlin in Mike Kenny's Arthurian tale and the Bishop of Lux in Philip King's comedy in 2013.

Edna Turnblad, you will note, is a woman and must be played straight as a woman. "I'm glad you understand that, as many don't! It's not like playing dame in panto or even drag. Dame is different from drag and this is different again," Matt explains.

"You play Edna as a woman, and when I discussed it with the guy who I took over from – Tony Maudsley, who did the last tour but had to go back to Spain to shoot another series of Benidorm – we agreed that you have to play Edna that way or there's no heart to it.

"Hairspray is really Tracy's story but it you don't believe that her mum and dad love each other and she's growing up in a loving home, then it doesn't work. It's such a fabulously optimistic show that says 'Be who you want to be', at a time of segregation.

"At first you think it might be a lightweight show, but then you think of what's going on in America right now and you ask, 'has anything really changed?'.

"I think that anything you, anything that any actor does, is influenced by the vessel it's coming through, but all I can do, whether it's Macduff in Macbeth, or Kafka in Alan Bennett's Kafka's Dick, or now Edna, it must have integrity, and where you pitch it comes down to the style of the piece.

"Whether you're playing dame or Ugly Sister, there has to be an honesty about it; like when me and dad play Ugly Sisters, you do believe we care about each other, just as you do with Berwick [Kaler] and Martin [Barrass] playing dame and son at the Theatre Royal."

Matt's dad is fellow actor Matthew Kelly, who will be following him into York this summer to perform alongside David Yelland in York Theatre Royal and The Original Theatre Company's co-production of Alan Bennett's The Habit Of Art from August 30 to September 8. "We did Kafka's Dick together at the Theatre Royal in 2001, and we'll just miss each other by about a week when he's rehearsing," says Matthew junior. "He's just had a hip replacement by the way."

Matt is in Dublin this week, entering the home straight of his Hairspray run, with only York, Swansea and Bournemouth still to come. "It feels like the whole of my career, doing this role!!" he says. "When I originally took over from Tony, I did ten weeks on that tour two years ago; 16 weeks on the road last year; 25 so far this year, but I've loved it!"

Hairspray runs at Grand Opera House, York, from Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at

What would a Viking in York make of Haispray? View below: