Bristol Hippodrome

Hairspray August 2013...

Hairspray the musical opened at the Bristol Hippodrome on Monday evening, August 6, and it is a B-I-G night out in more ways than one.

The strictly non-PC musical with its cast of singing and dancing misfits gave it some wellie as they bounced on and off the stage reaching new decibels of brilliance.

The comedic pairing of Mark Benton as Edna and Paul Rider as Wilbur Turnblad stole the show with their ‘titillation’ routine and newcomer Freya Sutton as their dance-mad daughter Tracy won pundits for her energetic performance as the kind-hearted fat girl.

The slick timings, psychedelic costumes and clever set all help to put this story of integration and segregation into a palatable social history context.

Oh boy, it is good.

With its brand placement, pleasantly plump people and bad hair days it’s a hoot.

Nailsea Musicals thespian Simon Webb, who lives in Clevedon, said: “I had a really good sing-song to cheesy Hairspray songs and embarrassed myself by knowing every word to You Can’t Stop The Beat.

“I had a sing-off with the girl sat next to me and I throat hurts now.”

Portishead dispense optician Madeline Middleton, who lives in Nailsea, said: “I went last year when Michael Ball of Love Changes Everything fame played the mum Edna Turnblad and I thought that was good but this production is even better.”

Bath Chronicle journalist Laura Tremelling, who lives in Clevedon and is 

a radio Sunshine presenter at Weston Hospital, went with best friend and fellow theatre fan Faye Machin.

Laura said: “Fab night, Hairspray is amazing and makes me wish I was around in the 60s.”

Hairspray is based upon the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters, with a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman.

The show is directed by Jack O’Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell.

Set in 1962 the storyline is bold and ballsy.It tells how Tracy wins a spot on the local TV dance programme, The Corny Collins Show, and is overnight transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity.

But can a trendsetter in dance and fashion vanquish the programme’s reigning princess, win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin (luscious Luke Striffler) and integrate a television show?

The soundtrack takes you from upbeat 60s dance to the downtown rhythm and blues.

Celebrity X Factor winner Lucy Benjamin is brilliant as snobbish mother and tv producer Velma Von Tussle, Sandra Marvin as Motormouth Maybelle raised the roof with her vocals and ugly duckling transformed to a beautiful swan Lauren Hood as Penny Pingleton and her love interest Seaweed J Stubbs played by Adrian Hansel paired off brilliantly.

This hilarious black comedy which is on a UK tour is playing at the city centre theatre until Saturday, August 17 – catch it while you can.


Carol Deacon

...and Hairspray at Nailsea School

There was a whole lot of shimmy and shaking going on at Nailsea School for its production of Hairspray.

Throughout the Thursday night performance an appreciative audience cheered, clapped, laughed-out-loud, waved, whooped and whistled.

And at the end of the show they gave a standing ovation.

But if you think the audience for Hairspray was energetically enthusiastic you ought to have seen the youngsters on stage who took several final curtain calls.

They gave it their all, singing, dancing and delivering lines in a southern drawl, in a professional and polished production with minimal stage props and many costume changes.

I am told the reception was equally enthusiastic at the other three sell-out evening shows and the matinee performance for the primary schools.

Director Amy Harris, of the Windowbox Theatre Company, rose to the challenge of putting on a musical which exposed an apartheid system operating in US schools in the 1960s by students from a predominately white English comprehensive.

She said she first asked herself ‘how?’ before deciding ‘how can we not’ after taking a group of the young people to see West End stars perform the musical at a theatre near London.

Focusing around a teenage TV dance contest the Nailsea School production team used language and style to highlight the differing status of the characters.

I overheard a young person in the audience when realising that segregation was based solely on skin colour saying ‘I wouldn’t have liked to live in those times’.

There were numerous outstanding performances.

The diminutive and musically talented Alexandra Knight wore a fat suit for her portrayal of overweight teenager Tracy Turnblad.

Her depiction was worthy of a Tony nomination.

The 17-year-old was aptly aided and abetted by Maddy Glover, also 17, who captured perfectly the quirky personality of best friend Penny Pingleton. 

It was Maddy’s first (and surely not last) major role.Tracy’s little and large parents Wilbur (Joel Rothwell) and Edna (Adam Weavers) were a match made in theatre heaven.

Being vertically-challenged did not stop 12-year-old Joel turning in comedic performance of majestic proportions while 18-year-old Adam donned a blonde wig and floral frocks to play a cross-gender role as part drag artist and part pantomime dame magnificently.

Heart-trob Link Larkin (Sam Ford) and Corny Collins (Cian Jarvis) were totally believable as they hogged the limelight as over-the-top television personalities.

The chorus line and minor characters, too numerous to name, all win equal honours as they were terrific especially for the mothers and daughters scene.

The show was filmed in black and white and this was projected onto the backdrop making it a real-time broadcast.

Broad St Hair stylists came in to help with the beehives and backcombing and the fine mist from canisters of dry ice where used as the hair lacquer cans on stage.

Metal barriers where imported from the playground for the prison scene that rocked with feeling.

It was a difficult score for the school band who also received heart-warming applause.

Producer and musical director Lynda Perkins said: “Musically there were constant key changes and tricky rhythms but the songs are very catchy.”

The two hour show had a cast of 70 students, a band of musicians and an army of people doing everything from props to lighting who all deserve to take a bow.

Head teacher David New said: “I was so proud of the students and staff who have worked so hard to produce an outstanding show.

“There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe how proud I am of the cast, musicians, backstage and technical crews."

Let’s hope Nailsea School’s ‘shake and shimmy’ talent returns to the stage soon.

Nailsea School which has technology and media arts college status opened in 1959 as a grammar school with 90 pupils.It became a comprehensive school in 1966 catering for pupils aged from 11 to 18 years.

And in September 2010 HRH the Duke of Gloucester officially opened the new £32 million new building on the same campus.

The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project was funded by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and included a state-of-the-art all weather pitch with floodlighting.

Currently the school has 1,216 pupils and some of the top exam results in the county.I'm a paragraph. 

Carol Deacon