Tuesday, 27 October 2015

"Hairspray" by Nottingham Operatic Society
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

If you could have a show on repeat, this is one show that would be on said function. Nottinghamshire has a deluge of wonderfully talented amateur groups who constantly and consistently provide the theatre-going public with wonderful performances such as witnessed tonight.

"Hairspray" is based on the film by John Waters and the book by Mark O Donnell and Thomas Meehan. The music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and additional lyrics from Scott Wittman.

Directed and choreographed by the very talented Denise Palin and musically directed by Stephen Williams, this show just gets better every time I have the pleasure to see it. I'm sure, if the old grey memory cells serve me right, that there are a couple of new lines in there which add to the comedy.

It's the story of Tracy Turnblad (Aston Fisher) who is not the conventional sized girl of the 60's, who dreams of being a star and dancing on the Corny Collins TV Show. Her mother, Edna Turnblad (Dan Armstrong) isn't too sure at the start because of Tracy's size, but her dad, Wilbur (Ian Pottage) is right behind her. She auditions and against all odds she wins a place as a dancer on the show and goes on to win the heart of the show's heart-throb, Link Larkin (Jacob Seelochan). In her effort to combat racism on the show she and her mum, among many others, end up in jail. But fret not folks because she is freed by Link, and Tracy wins the popularity contest on the show and breaks down the racist barriers set up by the Corny Collins show producer, Velma Von Tussle (Alison Hope) and her spoilt daughter, Amber (Lizzy Ives), former squeeze of Link's.

I love a show with a happy ending, and this has a wonderfully warm, fuzzy happy ending with a killer of a musical theatre song in "You Can't Stop The Beat" to close on.

Aston was wonderful to watch as the, not that over-sized Tracy. I had to look twice as the costume, make up and wigs made her almost unrecognisable.

Mark C-Bainbridge as the show host, Corny Collins, was suitable cheesy and I loved the jackets. I could see me doing my radio show in one! There seemd to be a bit of a wobbly on Mark's microphone at the start and his voice was slightly drowned out, but I've every confidence in the sound department to get this sorted.

Dan Armstrong, as Edna, again a joy to watch, camping it up. Great comic timing and I absolutely love the duet that he, sorry she, sings with her husband, Wilbur, in part two, "Timeless To Me". You could feel the love between the two, not as much as Dan felt it though!!! Lovely comic role for Dan, as was Wilbur for Ian.

Lauren Gill played Tracy's best friend, Penny Pingleton. Love this character who also gets her man in the unlikely form of cool, soul boy, Seaweed J Stubbs, a role that Aadyl Muller has played in Loughborough and now here for the Nottingham Operatics. Well they say opposites attract! Aadyl brings a bit of soul magic to the show with his dirty dance moves and chocolatey-smooth voice.

Alison and Lizzy are the kind of women you wouldn't want to take home or want to be brought home to. Social climbers and, as inn these cases hilariously funny due to their blinkered view of the world. Both wonderful character led roles for two lovely ladies in real life.

Jacob, as Link, is slightly arrogant; he knows that he has to perform for the camera and brings that sexy sixties heart-throb to life, curling his lip, thrusting his pelvis and looking out from under his eye-lids. he is a pop idol in personification. Away from the Corny Collins show though he is a different man. Softer and confident in what he wants, finally realising that his dream of getting that record deal didn't lie by way of the show itself. Ladies, you'll love him, and there's one stage outfit he wears which looks like it was sprayed on. Yes, the one where he sings to Tracy on the show and the other ghirls all faint, that one! Jacob also has a really good contemporary singing voice as well, which would easily transcend musical theatre.

Motormouth Maybelle,(Janine Nicole Jacques), mother to Seaweed and Little Inez, played by Grace Louise Hodgett-Young, was soulful delight. Her growling blues and gospel vocals ideal for the role. I would just have liked to hear her let it rip a bit more, especially in the song "I Know Where I've Been", What a belter of a song, to which Janine received a rapturous round of applause. It gave me goose-bumps.

A large cast, which made for some great ensemble work, which included several well known faces from the various Nottingham stages. Some wonderful sets, brilliant lighting design by Tom Mowat, as always, Just needs to tighten up the follow spot, which was at times a bit hit and miss.

Stage management could have been a bit sharper but this and the sound and spotlight issues are very minor details and after tonight, and the crew have got on the case, I know that this show will be as close to perfect as it can be. I know I can be picky but I've high expectations from this group and they are always met because they are total professionals and perfectionists.

I can't urge you enough to go and see this lovely warm, comic show with serious overtones presented in such an entertaining way. You'll come out with a mish mash of catchy tunes spinning around your head. Tunes like "Welcome To the 60's", "Good Morning Baltimore". "It Takes Two", "Mama I'm A Big Girl Now", "Timeless To Me" and "You Can't Stop the Beat" among a plethora of others.

"Hairspray" is at the Nottingham theatre Royal until Saturday 31 October 2015. get your tickets fast because if opening night is anything to go by, it could well be a sell out!

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