Rising to the challenge yet again
Act II directors Karl and Charlotte Gernert always like to challenge their young thespians. Always making it fun but never making it easy.
And, just like previous productions such as 'Misery: The Musical', 'The Who's Tommy' and 'Bad Girls', this was certainly not an easy production to pull off - so all the more praise is due for doing so successfully.
Based on the American 1980s film and musical, Hairspray tells the story of 1960s dance-loving teen Tracy Turnblad.
Tracy auditions for a spot on 'The Corny Collins Show', wins and becomes an overnight celebrity as well as a trendsetter in dance, fun and fashion.
Her success angers previous dance queen Amber Von Tussle and her mother Velma, who oppose Tracy's plans to allow black kids to dance on the show every time and not just once a month (on 'Negro Day').
Act II took the decision that to deny an actor to play a role due to the colour of their skin would be its own form of racism. They did the same with actors playing the larger-sized characters. And I applaud them for that.
So although it was an initial challenge to realise, for instance, that Seaweed (Libbi Wooding) was meant to be black and Tracy's mum Edna (Adam Smith) was meant to be on the large size - and is played by a man - once I got to grips with characterization I was able to sit back and enjoy the show.
I thought Scarlett Bergin did a great job of playing Tracy. She looked like a 60s American teen, she sounded like one too and she didn't put a foot wrong throughout.
Adam Smith was absolutely splendid as Edna Turnblad. I've not seen the original 80s movie but I know his role was played by the late drag queen Divine. If this is what Adam had in mind, then he definitely succeeded.
And just as slim people played large people and white youngsters played black youngsters, so did girls play boys... and Niamh Mulley (Edna's husband Wilbur), Ruby Crick (Tracy's lover Link Larkin), Beth Ward (Corny Collins), Libbi Wooding (Tracy's friend Seaweed) and Maja Platek (show sponsor Harriman F. Spitzer) rose to the challenge admirably.
Freya Perkins showed the goofy grace required to play Tracy's friend Penny Pingleton while Ocea-Lily Jarvis and Lia Feane really did transform into their characters so believably, Ocea-Lily as precocious dance queen Amber Von Tussle and Lia as her pushy, pretty mum Velma, once played by pop Goddess Debbie Harry herself.
There were some great tunes in this performance too, belted out in style by the kids, accompanied by a great band (hidden under the stage!). I don't know where Act II have been hiding Macie Harman (Motormouth Maybelle) but she has a stunning singing voice and simply blew away the audience with a faultless performance.
Another success for Act II and one with a difference too, as there were also junior performances of this production.