This school musical's a rather exceptional one
SCHOOL plays are underestimated: audiences expect unenthused teenagers performing the same generic plays from decades ago. But there was nothing but enthusiasm and originality in this exceptional performance of the musical Hairspray at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School.
The play is set in 1960s Baltimore, a racially polarised and unassuming city in the USA. We follow rotund and ambitious teen Tracy Turnblad, from her humble beginnings as an aspiring dancer, mocked by mainstream society, to her life as a professional performer on the popular Corny Collins Show, ultimately gaining the adoration of heartthrob Link Larkin.
Few institutions have the bravery or student dynamic to take on a play that explicitly features race and racism: for this, credit is due to Head of Drama and director Stephanie Wilson. The play imparts the poignancy of racism in 1960s America while revealing flamboyant defiance and optimism. It's particularly reflected in a scene which ends in protestors being arrested, hollering "2,4,6,8: TV's gotta integrate!".
Lois Kitchen, as an impressive Tracy Turnblad, brings constant zest to the performance, complemented by the quirky rapport between Wilbur and Edna Turnblad, played by John Gibby and James Ellis respectively. Antagonists Velma and Amber, played by Esther Lawrence and Lucy Helyer, provide guiltily hilarious quips. One-liners from actresses Sharai Callaway and Lula Crawley, as Lil' Inez and Penny, add vivaciousness to the production.
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Despite some hiccups with microphones, impressive harmonies between performers were consistent throughout the show. Choreography from Carol Crawford featured popular moves: the mashed potato mambo, in particular, was carried off fluently by the ensemble. Spot-on costumes enhanced the authenticity of the performance.
The addition of live music supplied an exhilarating pulse to the musical: the percussion and woodwind sections were especially vibrant. Directed by Ed Davies, the performance highlighted the flair and capability of the school's musicians.
Deafening applause awaited the performers at the end of the show: a suitable reception for such a captivating play.