Date 30th October 2015
Society Nottingham Operatic Society
Venue Theatre Royal Nottingham
Type of Production Musical
Director Denise Palin
Musical Director Stephen Williams
Choreographer Denise Palin


Author: Dr Martin Holtom

Hairspray the musical is based on the 1988 John Waters film with it’s main theme being a social commentary on the injustices of parts of American society in the 1950s and 60s.  The musical's original Broadway production opened on the 25th August 2002, and in 2003 it won eight Tony Awards out of thirteen nominations. It ran for over 2,500 performances and was adapted in 2007 as a musical film.

The London West End production was nominated for a record-setting eleven Olivier Awards, winning Best New Musical and in three other categories, and it was this London production that was my last exposure to this high energy, laugh out loud, life affirming musical which could have set an impossible to achieve expectation for Nottingham Operatic’s production – but to my delight, the performance exceeded my expectations on many levels.

Denise and Stephen together with their enthusiastic, energetic cast, created exactly the right ‘bubble gum - Technicolor’ feel in all aspects of the production including sound design, orchestration, characterisation and diction from every actor which was supported by an outstanding orchestra, superb choreography and costuming of Principals and chorus alike.

Stephen and David had clearly spend considerable attention to detail with the vocal performances of all the Principals with Aston Fisher (Tracy), Lauren Gill (Penny), Alison Hope (Velma), Mark Coffey-Bainbridge (Corney), Aadyl Muller (Seaweed), Lizzy Ives (Amber), Grace Louise Hodgett-Young (Little Inez) and Janine Nicole Jacques (Motormouth) all bringing life, warmth and believability to their characters.  Musical highlights included ‘Mama, I’m a Big Girl Now’, ‘It takes Two’, ‘I Can Hear the Bells’ ‘The Big Dollhouse’, ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ and the sublime ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’.  Personally I would have liked a bit more pace in ‘Good morning Baltimore’ to energise the beginning of the show and in ‘Without Love’ – but that’s just my taste…

Denise expertly choreographed with great precision the high energy numbers and the large ‘chorus’ of Council Members, Community and Ensemble that the society is blessed with without it becoming too intense and confusing – it’s been a very long time since I have seen so many cast members on stage and the visual complexity this allowed for was something to behold!

Mark Coffey-Bainbridge displayed effortless comic timing and Ian Pottage and Dan Armstrong gave virtuoso comedic performances, both acting and vocal, as Wilbur and Edna Turnblad throughout the night and brought refreshing originality to the ‘ad-libs’ in ‘Timeless to me’.  The relationship between the parents and Tracy worked well as did those between Tracy and Link which is a difficult role to play alongside such ‘Big’ characters, and which was well developed by Jacob Seelochan throughout the evening.

Lighting and sound supported the production greatly, lighting bringing exactly the right mood to every scene and great sound balance between pit and stage allowing the diction and voices to shine.  The Stage crew move seamlessly allowing the scenes to flow at pace and never letting the action drop.

Congratulations one and all – a great production and many thanks for inviting me along.