Hairspray performed by Chelmsford Young Generation, at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford, 12th November 2015
Director – Jeremy Tustin, Musical Director – Bryan Cass
Hairspray was a great choice for CYGAMS, giving opportunities for 10 strong principals, several additional cameo roles, a dance troupe (the council), the trio of Dynamites as well as literally dozens of ensemble members who were able to get a taste of musical theatre during the big production numbers. The wonderfully wacky, almost cartoon-like, set and large props provided a suitably bizarre framework that made the cross-dressing pantomime antics of Edna Turnblad, the clowning of her diminutive husband Walter, and the bigoted posturing of Velma and Amber von Tussle seem almost normal. Amy Hollingsworth’s Tracy Turnblad was terrific and the teamwork with Penny Pingleton (Jessica Higgins) was excellent throughout. Dreamboat Link Larkin, nicely sung and acted by a laidback Jack Martyn, was a great contrast to the charismatic, yet quirky, Paul French as Seaweed Stubbs. Samuel Wolstenholme was consistently funny throughout, although never more so than during the duet (played for laughs rather than pathos) with Wilbur, delightfully characterized by Jack Toland. Matt Barnes did well as TV presenter Corny Collins despite the band being particularly loud during Nicest Kids in Town, actually a challenge to most of the young singers. The competition between band and stage was an issue throughout which seemed to manifest itself in the mikes being pushed up to the max and frequent “howling” or feedback at the end of the songs. My neighbor commented on this during the very first song and while I got used to not hearing all the words during the songs and some of the underscored dialogue I did wonder how those who didn’t know the show would follow the plot.
Someone whose vocal clarity was not impacted by the band’s volume was Carmel Adekunle, a revelation as Motormouth Maybelle. A small figure, even in high heels, she nevertheless packed a vocal punch that seemed to come from someone twice her age and size; fantastic and someone to watch in future. Lauyrn Dobinson and Georgia Sandle captured the pushy mother and spoilt daughter very well and the cameo roles were all well cast, with Alexander Bloom’s Spritzer a funny visual warning of the dangers of a comb-over. The movement and choreography, although not overly frantic, was fun to watch and did enable a young ensemble to take part on a very large stage. One additional comment; quite a few of the one-liners were thrown way. While an audience unfamiliar with the show wouldn’t miss them I was surprised at their lack of impact. Nevertheless, this was a highly enjoyable show in which the young people gave their best and did extremely well.
Reviewer Stewart Adkins
Regional representative – District 8