Plentiful talent in Hairspray

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THOSE of us who were teenagers in the Swinging Sixties are Grannies now, and we might have forgotten the froth of beehive backcombs, clashing colours and the constant battle to get away with school skirts more than four inches above the knee, but – decades on – we realise we were living through a youth-led rebellion against accepted values and prejudices almost unrecognisable (indeed, illegal) in 2011, writes Joan Anderson.

It took a group of amazing 10–16 year olds from Deeside to bring it all flooding back in a glorious blaze of music, dance and song. Oh, and humour in bucketloads. It’s hard to know where to start with the plaudits for Deeside Youth Musical Theatre’s production of Hairspray, at Aboyne Community Theatre, on March 11 and 12.

Heather Stodter was a star as the spunky heroine Tracy Turnblad whose talent and compassion helped her lead the fight against racism, fatism and the idea that outer beauty is the only value that counts. Heather’s lovely voice and magnetic personality carried the strong storyline through comedy and chaos, much of which was generated by her mother Edna, played by Rory Beaton in a fatsuit, in all senses the largest, funniest dame to grace the Aboyne stage this century. His asides to the adults were Les Dawson at his peak.

There were so many highlights, especially his explosive entrance midstage in red spangles and a shower of sparkles. Surely, his mildly raunchy duet with “husband” Wilber, played to perfection by Connah O’Reilly-McLean, had us FOTFLOL…that’s Falling on the Floor Laughing Out Loud for my fellow ageing beatnicks. Now, that’s entertainment!

The whole cast delivered Hairspray to perfection with polish and attention to detail that spoke of hours of dedicated preparation and a wealth of backup, direction, production and musical talent.

Halla Price was endearing as Tracy’s slightly dippy friend, Sian Fish stunningly convincing as the beautiful bitch and Imogen Appleton superbly scary as the bitch’s mom. All three, along with Rory, Heather and the very funny Jenny Martin, performed complex six-way singing and choreography worthy of professionals in Mama I’m a Big Girl Now.

There were so many good singers in this show who produced tingles up the spine and the American accents were remarkably authentic and consistent throughout.

Nathan King gave us shades of Sinatra as showstopper Corny; Brad Arthur was like a young Elvis as smoothy Link Larkin and a truly marvellous performance by Coralie Arthur as Motormouth Maybelle helped keep the message of struggle for equality in mind, especially when she touched the soul with the lovely deep spiritual sound of I Know Where I’ve Been. Bob O’Reilly-McLean and Danielle Kemp both shone as Motormouth’s teenage children, particularly when they led the cast in the lively Run and Tell That. Bouquets, too, to the Dynamites, Abigail Thomson, Ellie Palmer, Elsa Brotchie and Isla Kitching whose singing, dancing and support were vital to making this one of the most memorable musicals in Upper Deeside.

The youngsters who took part were a credit to their families, schools and communities, proving that while teenagers might still be misunderstood 50 years on, each generation has its merits and there is hope for us all.