A unique state boarding grammar school for girls and boys in the Kent countryside.

Cranbrook School

Review of Hairspray: The Musical

I have a confession to make: I don’t much like musicals. Why? I enjoy a good story and I find many popular musicals are rather weak in this area. There are, of course, exceptions such as Oliver and West Side Story, but when they were based on stories by arguably the best two tellers the world has seen…

Well. Hairspray for me is not one of these exceptions and in all honesty, I was only in the audience as my son was in the cast. He had told me it was all going very well but I was not really expecting to enjoy it much. How very, very wrong I was. If I had known how good it was going to be I would have bought tickets for the night before and even tried to muscle my way into the Wednesday matinee. I have been acting in, directing and watching theatrical productions for 45 years and I have rarely enjoyed anything as much as this one. I have never enjoyed a musical as much.

So why was it so good?

Firstly, the set design was simple but well thought out and highly effective. The use of trolleys to move portable flats to create little scenes in various stage positions was a particular success but there were many other smaller touches which were orchestrated by a highly efficient backstage crew. Then, (talking about orchestra) the musicians were virtually faultless. I’m sure one or two would admit to playing the odd bum note but if they did I didn’t notice and if I had of done they were so good it would be churlish to complain about any very minor mistakes. Lighting was as well thought out as the staging and executed with the same professionalism. It wasn’t always perfect in terms of timing but perhaps that’s just the perfectionist director in me talking and I doubt very much if many in the audience noticed.

So then, on to the performers on stage.

There were very many strong performances but it would be inappropriate for me to single out anyone in particular because this was very much a (rather marvellous) team effort. The singing was assured and sometimes sensational. The dancing was very well choreographed and similarly executed and the acting mature and convincing. I had to keep metaphorically pinching myself to remind me that these were youngsters between 14 and 18 years of age, such was the mastery of characterisation. The energy was infectious.

Next, I feel I cannot finish this critique without singling out one particular person for praise.

As previously stated, I have directed many plays myself over the years and I know what it takes. However, I have always shied away from large casts as I have always felt the job was difficult enough without saddling myself with the additional problems of logistics and keeping everyone ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’. Cast and crew for this production numbered 72. To pull all this together for any sort of production is a major feat in itself. To then be in charge of producing a show of such quality is a tremendous effort. To director and producer, Jade Deeble, I tip my hat to a job very, very well done.

Finally, whatever I say is not really important.

At the end of the show, my natural reaction was to get to my feet to applaud. As I did I glanced over my shoulder (I was in the front row) to gauge the reaction of the rest of the audience and saw that each man, woman and child were all rising to their feet. Now that is important.

Very well done to everyone involved and thank you for allowing me to be a small part of a wonderful theatrical experience.

Andy Chesters (13/02/2019)


Thank you to Mr Chesters for his honest and delightfully written review! Please click here to view the photos from the show.

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