I was a member of WBOS Youtheatre, joining in 1997, and spent many wonderful years performing in shows such as Oklahoma, 42nd Street and even playing the lead of ‘Annie’ in 1999. So you can imagine the delight of being invited along to watch the 2018 WBOS Youtheatre production of Hairspray.
The award winning youth section of WBOS was formed in 1987 and the company comprises of young people ranging from 10-19 years of age. They perform a musical annually at the Garrick Theatre, Lichfield and also perform at the Dormston Mill Theatre in Sedgley.
With music by Marc Sharman and lyrics by Sharman and Scott Whitman, the musical Hairspray is set in 1960s Baltimore and tells the story of teenager Tracy Turnblad, who’s dream is to be a dancer on the Corny Collins television show. Tracy’s shape, personality and passion for social integration sets her apart from the other girls.
Director Ben Cole, Choreographer Claire Flavell and Musical Director George Stuart have created a vibrant charming production. This was my second time seeing Hairspray this year, previously watching the touring production at the Wolverhampton Grand in February, so it was wonderful to watch a production which was packed full of fresh energy and enthusiasm.
I loved being a member of this company back in my youth because it felt like a huge family. It is nice to see that in 2018 this is still the case, as this talented youth company appear to be a strong team performing the choreography with precision in unity.
Jessica Harrison was outstanding as Tracy Turnblad, reminding me of a young Carrie Hope Fletcher, as she oozed natural stage presence and charisma. Jessica performs with such professionalism and gives attention to detail in her performance. Her wonderful dance skills and energy never faltered in this demanding role, which is what I have witnessed previously in professional performances. Jessica also had fantastic chemistry with Joe Simmons, Link Larkin, who had a wonderful voice which was showcased in It takes two.
Thomas Rantell gave such a warm subtle performance as the bold Edna Turnblad, making it one of my favourite performances of Edna from the many productions of Hairspray that I have seen. I particularly enjoyed the performance of You’re Timeless To Me with Finn Smith, Wilbur Turnblad, who gave a charming quirky performance as the joke shop owner.
The Corny Collins show wouldn’t be complete without a dazzling showman played by the charismatic Will Foggin. Tia Mcdonald as the sassy Amber Von Tussle captured the essence of this true “mean girl, working together with her villianous mother Velma Von Tussle, Eleanor Shephard, as they both commanded the stage.
I loved the performance of Penny Pingleton by Arabella Yardley. Arabella gave the audience an excellent comedic performance, with audience members being reduced to laughter around us. Her remarkable characterisation and acting ability made Penny a standout character. It was enjoyable to watch the relationship with Penny and her strict overbearing mother Prudy performed perfectly by Holly Page.
Ashley Mazanhi has wonderful vocals and gave a confident performance as Seaweed. Tia Coe as his sister Little Inez, delivered her lines and dance moves with confidence. Her mother, Motormouth Maybelle, played by Nevaeh Leveridge is a strong character and Nevaeh portrayed this strength with ease and power with her performance of Big, Blonde and Beautiful.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable production of Hairspray which showcased the wealth of talent that lives within this youth company from the principle cast to the entire company .
We look forward to their next show – Bring it On!
Theatretastic rating 4/5:
We say: “WBOS Youtheatre are packed to the brim with talented youth! This was a charming and energetic production of Hairspray”