Thursday, 4 February 2016

"Hairspray" by Erewash Musical Society Youth Group
Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton.

"You Can't Stop The Beat" so the song goes, well you can add to that "You Can't Stop The Fun", "You Can't Stop The Energy" and "You Can't Stop The Enthusiasm" with the latest offering from the Erewash Musical Society's Youth section.

Now I'll be brutally honest here, because by the end of the first act, I was less than impressed but not with the actors, but with the sound. At times you couldn't hear the singing or talking; it made me think that that the actors weren't rigged up with a  back-pack microphone and the audience missed out on many of the very funny lines in the brilliantly funny script. so i thought, "I've got to find out what's going on here!" and found out that there was an issue with the sound mixing desk. Not human error at all. Ben Tennett, the sound tech, managed to get it all sorted out for Act 2. I imagine Ben was sweating buckets up at the sound mixing desk while fixing it up while the show went on. 

I've said this in the past, but it's the way that theatre people deal with unforeseen issues like this that gain my respect, and my respect was given to Ben on opening night for turning it around, and changing my outlook on the show. Frustrating as it was for the audience, it must have been more frustrating for the actors on stage as they had no control over the situation but carried on like troopers. I can only imagine the adrenalin coursing through their veins!

"Hairspray" is one of my Top 10 favourite musicals because it's great fun as well as presenting a brilliant message. Dealing with racism, class, weight issues and self appreciation among other issues, it presents these in an enjoyable and fun way while getting the seriousness of the 1960's segregation problems to the fore. And there are some brilliant characters here.

Tracy Turnblad was played with great enthusiasm and gusto by Eliza Charnock wither her mum, Edna, played by Benito Preite. This must be one of the hardest roles for a younger actor to play but Benito pulled off the role admirably. Wilbur Turnblad was played by Dylan Springfield.

Link, the teen heart-throb of The Corny Collins Show was played by Oliver Wheddon. Ollie showing another side of his acting, and different from his last role I saw him in as St Jimmy in "American Idiot". He twinkled as the 60's equivalent of Justin Bieber, occasionally winking at the audience showing a confident character, comfortable in his role as a teen idol, but bringing that sheen down in his scenes with Tracy to show his real side. Nicely done by one of local theatre's Mr Nice Guys.

Another young actor I have tons of respect for, and have seen in several roles, and always gives sterling performances is Hayden Fletcher as Seaweed. Seaweed is one of the main black characters but all the black characters in this production are white. At first this is a bit of a mindbender but through the acting talents of these young actors, you forget all about this. Hayden should have the middle name of "snakehips" as he can groove with soul. No surprise there as he's a bit of a ballroom master away from the stage. Again one of the nicest blokes you could meet on and off the stage.

I love the role of Penny and Lucy Ledger teased all the laughs out of the character possible. A fun and zany role for a lovely comedy actress.

Amber, the daughter of Velma, and a chip of the old block here is typically bossy and aloof; with a role model like Velma, what else would you expect? Amber is link's TV girlfriend who looses out to Link's affections for Tracy. Loved the pinnacle of bossiness as when Amber orders Link to her side and out of Motormouth's record shop, he chooses to stay with Tracy. Classic! Amber is played by Chloe Hopcroft and Velma is played by Emily Marshall. Both characters miles away from Chloe's and Emily's own.

Grace Deakin (Little Inez) has a brilliant soul dripping voice, as does Paige Sisson (Motormouth). Paige gets to perform one of my favourite songs in the musical "I Know Where I've Been" and gave me goose bumps.

Corny Collins, the presenter of The Corny Collins Show, is played with ultimate cool by Tom Judson; a new name to me I think, but shows great promise as the unflappable TV host.

A big ensemble cast consisting of a further 23 actors. The ensemble choreography was of a high standard especially when you discover that this is Steph Ure's choreography debut. She took on a mammoth job and smashed it!

Carol Lawson produced and directed the musical and she must be a very proud lady at the results of this sell out show.

Dave Dallard was the musical director, assisted by Martin Lewis. An orchestra of eleven created a powerhouse of sound which at times overpowered the singers but this was on opening night and the sound mix of orchestra and actor will be different when the theatre is full of bodies. Again by Act 2 Dave and co. had just about got this sorted. Clear and crisp with an amazing rhythm section.

Great costumes, and I was especially impressed by Edna's final dress which shone as bright as the actor wearing it. When the lights caught the dress it looked almost alight. Talking of the lights, despite a few missed spots, the lights were, if you'll pardon the pun, spot on. The stage at times awash with colour, thanks to Dave Martin.

Despite my initial outlook, this production, thanks to the cast and production people, turned me around and gave me a wonderful and fun night out. A hard working and talented cast with some brilliantly catchy songs that will have you singing as you leave, but leave you with your social conscience well and truly pricked.

Another massive success for the Erewash Musical Society Youth Group. the show is on until Saturday 6 February 2016 but check first if there are any tickets left because rumour has it that it's just about sold out.

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