‘Hairspray’ is a total delight

2010-07-13 00:00



Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre University of KwaZulu-Natal


IT’S always a delight to discover new talent and the10th annual Rainbow Young Performers Project has uncovered some real gems through its latest production, the musical Hairspray.

The young leading lady, Kirsten Dey, was simply amazing as chubby Tracey Turnblad, a wannabee singer and dancer and huge fan of a television talent show hosted by Corny ­Collins (Scott Roberts). Dismissed ­because of her size, she gets the chance to strut her stuff after learning some sexy new moves from Seaweed J. Stubbs (Simo Dlamini) during detention at her school.

It’s also where her passion for equal rights is stirred as the passionate youngster cannot understand why African Americans can’t share the same dance platform as their white counterparts.

Dey, a pupil at St Mary’s DSG in Kloof, is a tiny bundle of energy who had the audience eating out of her hand. She has a fabulous voice, great footwork and that rarest of all performing commodities, comic timing. Should she choose to tread the boards, she’ll be a superstar.

Dlamini is another young talent to watch. A veteran of three Young ­Peformers Project shows — Annie, School of Rock — SA and Big River — he has now left school and turned professional. In Hairspray, he brings the character of Seaweed wonderfully to life and has dance moves to die for. It’s to be hoped that someone will consider helping this young man to study and achieve his dream of working in our entertainment industry.

The 50-or-so young stars chosen to perform in Hairspray (from 650 youngsters who auditioned) were joined on stage by theatre legend ­Peter Court, who played Tracey’s mum Edna Turnblad. Court milks this comedic role for all it’s worth and is ably assisted in his antics by Westville Boys’ High pupil Dewlin van Jaarsveld as Wilbur Turnblad.

Another performer deserving of a mention is Blessing Xaba (who will be playing the role of Fatty in Spud: The Movie), and dons a dress and wig to play the role of Motormouth Maybelle. He’s absolutely wonderful and steals most of the scenes he’s in.

Also derserving of plaudits are Kerryn Beattie as Tracey’s blonde, ditsy pal, Penny; Olivia Edkins as the bitchy Velma von Tussle, a woman determined to get her daughter Amber crowned Miss Hairspray; Preven Reddy as Tracey’s dress designer Mr Pinky; Joel Shepherd as Tracey’s love interest and wannabee recording star, Link Larkin; and Shekhinah Donnell, who performed the beautiful song, I Know Where I’ve Been, and has the kind of voice that could fill a cathedral.

Co-directors Themi Venturas and Charon Williams Ros have done a great job with the young cast, who get to perform with a live band — ­Solid Gold, which features the talents of Shem Mahabeer, Llewellyn Chetty, Dillon Kanny, Dane Francis and Thabani Gapara.

The Young Performers Project, which is run by the KZN branch of the Performing Arts Network of SA and supported by Rainbow Chicken, is a superb scheme and I sincerely hope that it continues to develop South Africa’s future stars.

As for the show itself, it’s a treat. Packed full of great songs like Good Morning Baltimore, Mama I’m a Big Girl Now, You’re Timeless to Me and You Can’t Stop the Beat, Hairspray is worth every penny of the entrance ticket. Don’t miss it.

• Hairspray is at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until July 18. Booking is at Computicket.

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