Anthony May

Review: Hairspray @ Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre

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The West End Operatic Society said welcome to the 60s as they brought their production of Marc Shaiman’s toe-tapping, wig-raising musical, Hairspray, to the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre. The company is the first to stage a show at the theatre since it was recently taken over by new management.

Based on the John Waters’ film and Tony Award-winning Broadway show, Hairpspray follows heroine Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teenager with a big heart and an even bigger dream to dance on The Corny Collins Show, as she tries to win the heart of the show’s star, teen idol Link Larkin. She successfully auditions for the show, much to the dismay of her rival, Amber Von Tussle and her scheming mother, Velma. Overnight she becomes a teen idol, but can she overcome the odds to win Link’s love?

The cast battled through mic problems to deliver a solid opening night performance. While at times a little lackluster in delivery, the staging and costumes could not be faulted. Mishaps like a wig falling off and a dodge ball thrown from the stage into the orchestra pit, were styled out by the cast as stylishly as the flashy attire on their backs. The more recognisable numbers, such as Nicest Kids In Town and You Can’t Stop The Beat weren’t overshadowed by the show’s lesser-known songs, which allowed the audience to really get lost in the show’s story without hanging on just to hear the big hits.

Aniella Lucia proves she can carry a show. A shaky start, no doubt down to first night jitters, was backed up by a strong performance. Her vocals were at times a little mature for the teenage Tracy but powerful nonetheless, and her comedic timing was on point. New Zealander Lucia, who will share the role with Melissa Cavanagh, is currently completing her degree in Musical Theatre at Newcastle College before heading to New York to train at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Jamie Howse gives a believable performance as TV heartthrob Link and Ellen Lilley is cute as a button in her turn as Tracy’s best friend, Penny. Leanne Harrison and Hannah Elliot, as Velma and Amber, give deliciously camp turns as the scheming mother-daughter duo. Harrison in particular is blessed with some acerbic one-liners, and for me was the stand out performer. Andrew Fearon, decked out in drag of the fuller figured variety, repeatedly steals the show as Tracy’s mother Edna.

A special mention must also go to Paul Outterside as Tracy’s father Wilbur. With only a couple of songs at his disposal, what he lacks in spotlight time he makes up with comedic spark and likeability.

A company that is a credit to the North East theatre scene, this production showed that these are not only the nicest, but some of the most talented, kids in town.

Hairspray is at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre until April 18.

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