Hairspray - Musical ☆☆☆☆4
Showing from - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 through till Saturday, May 16, 2015
Sutton Coldfield Town Hall - Sutton Coldfield
Ross Lowe | Friday, May 15, 2015
If you believe in something strongly enough, then it's worth fighting for. If you genuinely care about something, then maybe it's worth singing and dancing your heart out for it too.
At Sutton Coldfield's Town Hall this week, the Trinity Players have done exactly that by bringing the 2002 Broadway musical smash Hairspray to the stage and getting everyone (and I mean everyone) up on their feet and dancing!
Hairspray is based on the 1988 film of the same name (which was then re-made in 2007) and is in itself based on real-life events that took place in Baltimore, Maryland during the early 1960s. Before the curtain was even up we were introduced to power-hungry TV producer Velma Von Tussle (Jennifer Mears), chasing musical director Tim Harding into the pit and urging him to get started. Pacy numbers and more reflective pieces alike were all equally delivered bang on the moneyIt was a nice touch that immediately grabbed everyone's attention, and one of a number of occasions in which the splendid surroundings of the venue were fully utilised and put to good use.
The orchestra themselves were terrific, excellently marshalled by Harding and making the most of the catchy and energetic soundtrack without drowning out any of the singing or dialogue on stage. Pacy numbers and more reflective pieces alike were all equally delivered bang on the money and toes were tapping left, right and centre among the sell-out crowd.
The show's heroine, Tracy Turnblad (a truly endearing performance by Frances Corbett) kicked things off with 'Good Morning Baltimore' and the show was away. The pace rarely dropped and there were no uncomfortable pauses during scene-changes, a real credit to stage manager Katy Crudgington and her team as pace is one of the key factors of what drives this show.
Back to Tracy though. Corbett's convincing performance was every inch that of the young teenager full of hopes and dreams - and she had you from the moment she began to sing. 'Good Morning Baltimore' was enjoyably delivered and as the town came to life around her, so the audience was drawn into her world.
Tracy dreams of fame on her local TV dance show, the Corny Collins Show (based on the real-life Buddy Deane Show) and as she watches it on TV in her living room, we're instantly transported to the TV studio in which Velma Von Tussle wields her power. It's 1962 and we're witnessing the build-up to the televised Miss Hairspray contest, hosted by Corny himself. Corny was one of a number of excellent principal performances delivered from underneath one of a number of wonderfully authentic and amusing wigs - in this instance by Stephen Blower.
Eventually Tracy makes it onto the show but faces stiff competition from Kayleigh Murray's deliciously catty Amber Von Tussle, daughter of - you guessed it - Velma the producer. But there's more to this story than simply dreams of fame. The joy and upbeat mood of the songs are overshadowed by the issue of racial segregation and Tracy finds herself unwittingly caught up in the middle of it all simply by having black friends - and seeing, rather radically (for that time and place at least) no problem with that whatsoever. By meeting those in Tracy's friendship group we get to explore the huge depth of young talent among the ranks at the Trinity Players, including Rebecca Perry as the convincingly cute best-friend Penny Pingleton, and Aoife Kelly as Little Inez. Dane Fox was incredibly eye-catching as Seaweed Stubbs - a performer possessed of slick and natural movement and a strong vocal capability, who was clearly at home on the big stage.
The segregation issue was well dealt with and at no point did the audience feel they were being preached to - credit due in part here to director Ben Field in his directorial debut. The cast were all clearly well-drilled throughout and there were some strong set-pieces in the show - a confident first outing for him in this role and surely the first of more to come.
The lively numbers kept coming and there were some great performances along the way, most notably Michael Grant who managed to be both hilarious and endearing as Tracy's mum Edna Turnblad (and provided great company for Bob Atkins' very warm and genuine portrayal of dad Wilbur), Ed Mears convinced as teen heartthrob Link Larkin and Shirley Gladwin revelled in the role of religious fanatic Prudy Pingleton.
Vocal performance of the night though came from the supremely soulful Leigh-Ann James (who was also responsible for the enjoyable choreography) as local R&B record shop owner Motormouth Maybelle. Her performance of 'Big, Blonde & Beautiful' was one of many show highlights and she was exactly that. Superb.
All in all Trinity put out a performance to be proud of - a show which had every member of the audience up and dancing at the end, regardless of age, race, size or shape! It's great to see more modern musicals (bearing in mind that Hairspray made its West End debut in 2008 - only 7 years ago) available to amateur companies and being attacked with real vigour and panache while successfully drawing the audiences in their droves.
The people of Sutton Coldfield lapped it up and they are extremely lucky to have the impressive Trinity Players on their doorstep putting out a musical, a play and a choral show every year. For them, the beat never stops and local theatre is all the better for it.
All photos by Redlock Photography
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