NODA Review by NODA - 2015
As Wilbur Turnblad says “you’ve gotta think big to be big”, and Scarborough Musicals thought BIG when they choose Hairspray as their 2015 project. From Big Hair and Big Hearts to Big Songs and even Bigger Choreography, this show started with gusto and maintained pace through till the BIG finale of “You Can’t Stop the Beat”. This show worked well for SM as it is a wonderful ensemble piece and enabled the large cast of around 40 to be involved from start to finish. The group choreography was well-designed and tightly rehearsed to ensure the numbers flowed seamlessly from one to another. Whilst the ensemble shone as a group, there were also some stand out performances within the principal line-up. Credit must first be given to Kaya Hutchinson taking the lead role of Tracy Turnblad – she owned the role and the stage from start to finish. Cara Hitchens playing Tracy’s best friend Penny Pingleton maintained her quirky characterisation beautifully. Paul Buttner and George Williams, Edna and Wilbur Turnblad respectively, developed a heart-warming relationship and their duet “You’re Timeless to Me” was indeed perfectly timed. Other musical numbers of note included the visually impressive “Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now” and the vocally impressive “I know where I’ve been”, the latter performed to perfection by Jessica Gardham as Motormouth Maybelle. Whilst all the onstage performances were impressive throughout, the other star of this show was the set design and construction, which worked perfectly within the limitations of the YMCA stage, all complimented by strong lighting and video design. The Orchestra was well rehearsed and worked hard from their onstage position and whilst on the first night there were a few balance issue with the sound, these didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the show, and I am sure they will have been quickly ironed out for the rest of the run. A sell-out show for SM who rightly deserve all the praise and plaudits that will undoubtedly follow this stellar production.
This was a change of style for Scarborough Musicals – and how well it wore it. Rodgers and Hammerstein is its stock-in-trade – but full houses all week proved that audiences, too, like a change. The subject matter – racism and sexism – as well as the music took the actors and audience out of the comfort zone of boy meets girl. Hairspray is part of the modern musical canon but in a nutshell it is about an overweight teenager Tracy Turnblad who takes on a TV station in her bid to win a dance competition – and equality for her African-American neighbours. It gave younger members of the company chance to shine – bring on Kaya Hutchinson as Tracy, Mike Seals-Law as love interest Link Larkin, Pippa Mundey as catty rival Amber Van Tussle and Cara Hitchins as cute as a button Penny Pingleton. New to the company was Jessica Gardham as Motormouth Maybelle and Justin Mhaka as Seaweed. They were ably supported by the ‘usual suspects’ Robin Newman, Dave Blaker and the chorus members. Paul Buttner was fantastic as Tracy’s mum Edna – the duet with husband Wilbur (George Williams) was a stand-out delight. Exuberance and enthusiasm reigned from the opening number Good Morning Baltimore to the closing to You Can’t Stop the Beat – and you certainly could not.By John Smith posted July 30, 2015