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I was so pleased to be asked to review Hairspray for Vivo D’Arte, firstly because I love to see the wealth of young talent there is locally and secondly because it is one of my all-time favourite shows.

From start to finish this was a show with an abundance of energy – I was feeling quite breathless by the end of Act 1!!  The whole production overall was almost perfection, so my job is easy – however, there were a few points that would have lifted this to outstanding.

The set was well thought out – minimal, but it worked extremely well, and was practically seamless so that the action flowed.  The upper set for Tracy’s house was excellent.  Lighting was very good – and moved between the different sets well.

The band gave us a super sound, and apart from the opening number seemed to be an accompaniment rather than a performance, with some lovely calm, jazzy nuances as well as the full-on numbers, which is always a test of the MD’s control, as with enjoyable music musicians are inclined to want to give it full pedal, so need to be reined in slightly – and this seemed to work really well.

I thought the choreography worked really well, exceedingly well-drilled and imaginative.  As always, I would have liked to see more grouping rather than lines, but the cast all went for it, and showed their commitment.  

Just a note on the ensemble in general, I found that when Tom Pigram and Cameron McAllister were dancing my eye was drawn to them – as they are not only incredibly good dancers, with excellent facial expressions, they really committed themselves to what they were doing. That is not to take away anything from the female ensemble, who all showed great commitment and got into their parts well.  The ensemble as a whole added much to the show.

Molly Blumson did a super job as Tracy, she was on stage nearly the whole time, and never once did her energy and commitment to the music and the words dip – very well done, a lovely portrayal.  A strong voice but musical, which gave much to her numbers.  I particularly liked I Can Hear the Bells.  An excellent foil was her friend Penny Pringleton, played by Ellen Tritton, a lovely comedy role, which Ellen got right into, and gave her all.  I loved their relationship, and also their relationships with their respective mothers. Kathryn Le Blond played the prim Prudy Pringleton very nicely, making the most of the emphasis on not allowing her daughter to mix with those people, then giving her blessing in the end.

George Watkins once again showed us his wonderful voice in the role of Corny Collins – and also a very wry humour when dealing with the awful Velma!!  George always seems to come up trumps whatever the part.

I liked Connor Dyer as Link Larkin – he gave us all the right vibes and got the joyful feel of the young man trying to make his way in show biz.

The pairing that was Edna and Wilbur Turnblad was excellent – Freddie Clarke as the slightly geeky Wilbur, really came into his own when showing his love for his wife, their duet was a mix of fun and caring – wonderful.  Then we had Josh Bird as the outrageous Edna – a tour de force and great comic timing, costumes were very good.

Emilie Daly and Emily Scott as Velma and her daughter Amber, both looked the part, but I thought they needed a little more deviousness in their portrayals.  However, they both sang well, and showed that they thought they were a cut above the rest of their contemporaries.

Daniel Lewis was very good as Seaweed – his lib was a little throw-away at times, but there is no doubting his athletic and dance skills, and musically he did well too.  I enjoyed his relationship with Penny, it gave the impression of innocent association, with the promise of more!!

I loved the portrayal of Maybelle by Katrina Ellis – very accomplished, a great almost earthy feel to her numbers, which was a good contrast to the lighter feel to the rest of the music.

Faith Ibrahim was a delightful Inez – so small but so sassy – no-one was going to ignore this young lady.  I enjoyed her portrayal.

Alfie Glasser played several of the smaller principal parts, but brought a very different feel to them all – Alfie is an accomplished young man, who was well able to cope with the diversity.

The production attracted a standing ovation, which was well-deserved, as overall this was an outstanding production, and to get to that standard in 7 days was a marvellous achievement for all concerned, and I am sure owes much to the preparation and commitment of the production team

Nova Horley


HAIRSPRAY” date: 15th August 2014

Rudolf Steiner School, Kings Langley

Director: Amy Dunstall  MD: Dan Cowtan

Choreographer: Andrea Campusano


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