I JUST want to be IN IT!" I wistfully thought, as I sat in the audience of the Cliffs Pavilion watching Hairspray, one of the best loved feel-good musicals ever.

Judging by the actions of pretty much the entire audience, who got up out of their seats at the Cliffs Pavilion on Monday night during the finale to bop and clap along to You Can't Stop the Beat, so did they!

Set in the 60s in Baltimore, the story is centred around Tracy Turnblad, a girl who is desperate to dance on the Corny Collins show with the Nicest Kids in Town. Despite the cruel remarks about her weight made by the show's producer, the nasty Velma Von Tussle (played by Claire Sweeney, who despite being widely known for her pleasant girl-next-door persona, did a marvellous job at coming across as this ultra vile, ruthless character) and her annoying daughter Amber, (played to perfection by Lauren Stroud), Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for racial equality, bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way.

On the night I went to see the show, Tracy was played by understudy Rosie O'Hare. She gave such a faultless performance, it was hard to imagine anyone else doing it.

Another understudy who stepped under the spotlight was Aiesha Pease, who played the part of Motormouth Maybelle, the mother of the very cool Seaweed. What a pair of pipes! She had the audience whooping with delight after her rendition of Big, Blonde and Beautiful, not that she was exactly "big", as the character herself laid claim to be, but only slightly curvy. What she lacked in big size though, she made up with her big voice.

Matt Rixon donned a dress and wig to play the very loveable mother of Tracy, Edna Turnblad, while former Blue Peter presenter and actor Peter Duncan played her devoted hubby Wilbur, a part that suited his seemingly sunny nature very well. I thought he played it quite close to that of actor Christopher Walken in the 2007 film.

Two of my favourite characters were the afore mentioned Seaweed, played by Dex Lee, (what a mover) and the apple of his eye, the adorably geeky best friend of Tracy's, Penny Pingleton, played by Monique Young. They got in plenty of subtle laughs, and seemed to have some very special on stage chemistry.

Also funny to watch, with his slick heart-throb gestures, was the suave and good looking Link Larkin, played by Ashley Gilmour, and his cool-but-cheesy entourage of equally dashing backing singers and dancers. The dancing of course, is the main vein running throughout the story, so what would Hairspray be without some amazing dance talent? The non-stop routines, were truly outstanding, not only because of the superb choreography (hats off to Drew McOnie there), but the dancers themselves were really all something special. An extra loud toot goes to Layton Williams, who really stood out as one of the most eye catching and ultra nimble. Now in his 22 year, his dancing career took off when he was aged 12, when he starred as Billy Elliot in the west end production.

Hairspray is on at the Cliffs Pavilion, Station Road, Southend, until Saturday May 21, and includes matinee and evening performances.

Tickets are priced from £27 to £47.50, available from southendtheatres.org.uk.