Ballywillan Drama Group

Director – Brian Logan, assisted by Alan McClarty
Choreographer – Sharon Logan, assisted by Victoria Lagan
Musical Director – Eric Boyd,  assisted by Andrew Robinson

Riverside Theatre, Coleraine    24.01.15

Billed as ‘The Ultimate Feel-good Show’, Hairspray is undoubtedly one of the best of the modern musicals for amateur production, with lots of principal and minor principal roles and plenty of chorus work. With a cast of 75, the set was necessarily simple – raised areas with different opening flaps on either side of the stage and cyc for projection above the on-stage “Big Band” at the back. Occasional trucks were moved onto the stage by brown-overalled stage hands – I liked that touch! Karen Hunter’s props including Joke Shop contents and platters of food were excellent and all were well lit whether full stage or individual areas. Costumes by Utopia of Forfar were colourful and authentically 60’s – the men’s poster colour suits and Edna’s frocks were particularly eye catching. Hairstyles were also very 60’s and wigs in the final scene were amazing!
A slim Megan Cunning wore a rather strange shaped fatsuit to play Tracy Turnblad. She sang well and, together with Louise McClarty as Penny Pingleton became a typical teenager. They both displayed excitement and wonderful enthusiasm for their favourite TV show and its young stars. All these – Lou-Ann (Donelle Reynolds), Tammy (Ellen Duguid), Shelly (Olivia Hall), Brad (Shea Eastwood), Fender (Leon Woods),Sketch (Joel Murphy), Brenda (Sarah-Jayne McGill) and IQ (Adam Campbell) were lively and convincing participants headed by Link Larkin (David Mullan) who made an appealing teenage idol. David had a pleasant singing voice as did Warren McCook as Corny Collins. The latter was a typical TV host under the thumb of Show Director Velma Von Tussle. Played by Maxine McAleenan, she was the ‘baddie’ who was determined to push her daughter Amber (Laura Fisher) into the limelight, in spite of her lack of ‘star quality’. These two made an effective duo.
The Hairspray plot involves the colour segregation of the period and the young group of black friends who met at Maybelle’s Record Shop – Gilbert (Paedar McKinney), Lorraine (Lucy McDowell), Duane (Connor Dudley-Fergus), Cindy (Anna Warke), Nessa (Annie Levy) and Stacy (Hannah McAleenan) – were a lively bunch, under the wing of Helen Wilkinson as Motormouth Maybelle and her children Seaweed (Adam Goudy) and Little Inez (Jasmine Gardiner). As PC convention does not allow ‘blacking up’ nowadays, it was only by listening carefully to the dialogue that the audience could understand who was coloured. Adam was a dynamic young man with excellent vocals while Helen’s great jazz voice made “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” and “I know where I’ve Been”, unforgettable musical numbers. Smaller roles such as Penny’s mother Trudy Pingleton (Maelisa Cunning), Harriman F Spritzer (Tom Waddell), Mr Pinky (Kent Bolton), the Dynamites, Matron, School Principal, Gym Teacher and Backing singers all added individual entertaining cameos. All the Chorus and Dancing Ensembles were well drilled in musical numbers and singing was uplifting.
Many of the laughs in the show were provided by Tracy’s parents, Wilbur and Edna Turnblad, played by Richard Mairs and Alan McClarty. Their relationship was thoroughly believable and when it came to their number –“Timeless to Me”- it only took facial expressions and simple moves to have the audience in stitches! Alan achieved totally convincing female mannerisms – it was hard to remember that he was a man!
Placing Eric Boyd and his 9 piece band on stage worked well. They were costumed and fully integrated into the show without being intrusive. Well controlled and sympathetic to singers, they made a good 60’s sound. Choreography was well taught and energy levels were high in spite of being the second performance of the day. Director Brian tackled this large scale production expertly and he and Sharon moved the huge cast with ease and precision. The standing ovation at the end of the show was well earned.
My thanks for a super evening’s entertainment.