Friday, 18 August 2017

“Hairspray Jnr”
Nottingham Arts Theatre
It’s 1962 in Baltimore, and the lovable teenager, Tracy Turnblad, has only one desire – to dance on the popular “Corny Collins Show.” When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star. She must use her newfound power to dethrone the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob, Link Larkin, and integrate a TV network… all without denting her ‘do!
This is part of the Summer School 2017 scheme that is run at the Nottingham Arts Theatre, giving aspiring actors, or just kids who fancy having a go a chance to perform in front of friends and family but with professional tuition in theatre craft. The children in the Summer Scheme, aged 7 to 16 year old, learn the musical, the script, the songs, the choreography and stage craft all under the expert eye of producers, directors, musical directors etc . Tonight is the chance these kids get to show what they’ve been learning over the last two weeks.
I’ve been lucky enough over the last few years to have been invited down to see the end results of these Summer Schools and witness the absolute joy, and the occasional tear.
It takes a lot to put on a production of this standard and Director and choreographer Amy Rogers-Gee, Musical Director and set designer Laura Ellis and co set designer Joseph Smith who also stage managed the musical.
Emily Wilkins played Tracy. Not only did she sound and looked good but she had to endure being in a fat suit, which made me think that she must have been very slender under that costume.
Manny Moore was a very confident Corny Collins and playing Edna, and in the true tradition of the film of being male playing a female was Billy Kiety, who looked to be having as much fun playing Edna as we had watching him play Edna.
Wilbur, father to Tracy and husband to Edna was portrayed by an very confident Se Phelan.
Penny, Tracy's best friend, was played by Lacey Dykes and the pairing of Velma and Amber, the mother and daughter bigots were played with great attitude by Nia Phelan and Molly Benner respectively.
The Corny Collins heart throb, Link Larkin was played by Jonathan Jaycock. His mum said before the show that Jonathan was really nervous but if that was the case, he either hid them well or lost them as soon as the curtain went up.
Seaweed was played by the ultra cool Yara Johns-Ramos and equally as cool was Hattie Campion as Little Inez. Grace Hodgett-Young showed off her amazingly soulful voice as Motormouth, especially in the gorgeous "I Know Where I've Been".
There was a large ensemble who were equally as joyful to watch and several future stars were on show tonight.
Great dancing from all and everyone looked like they were having a ball on stage. the songs are infectious and the enthusiasm was plain to see, and all of this in the space of two weeks.
There are several musicals which I’ve felt aren’t quite suitable for that additional “Jnr” tag, but this isn’t one of them. It’s great fun, it’s colourful and it gives out a wonderful message to the kids and the audience about racial harmony and class division.
I can only imagine the two weeks leading up to this performance were a great introduction and education for the kids who were having their first taste of being in the spotlight, but also a fun fortnight, because you can't put on a show like "Hairspray" without enjoying what you do, because that would show. I sat there with an inane grin on my face for all of the night because this group made me feel that way.
Another brilliant Summer School Scheme from the Nottingham Arts Theatre and another amazing cast of talented kids, who should all feel absolutely over the moon by what they've achieved.