This time last year, the David Hennessy Junior Stage School put on a winning and wonderful Cinderella and followed it this year with an innovative, new show, Back To The 80s. Now they have topped 2009 off with an exceptional production of the 2002 American Show, Hairspray, at the warm and welcoming De La Salle Sports Hall. Waterford has a growing youth and junior stage school reputation and the depth of talent is wonderful to see. David Hennessy is ambitious to pick out these new style productions and he must put in a major effort to prepare a very young cast to shine as they did in Hairspray.
But it was the expressions of joy and happiness on young faces, tots of four to six, that made this a beautiful experience like Billy Shanahan, jack Chester, Noah Cowman, Lee Flavin, Shauna Hennessy, Charlie Cleary. Add to that a small army of seven to nine year olds like Sean Burke, Luke Cronan, Joe Doherty, Michael Partridge and Natasha Wyse. And there was more from ten years up like the irrepressible Emily Grant, her sister Kayleigh Grant,, Clara Giles, Dylan Brown, John O’Neill and Luke Nugent.
Hairspray is a sixties, civil rights, themed musical with a mix of nationalities, colours and social discriminations, centred around the plump but bubbly Tracy Turnblad, who wants to dance on a TV show. It was turned into a movie in 2007. Its mix of teenager rejection amid the Kennedy era, caught the mood of an eager public who loves the variation of almost bland teen musical format. Like Grease, the lyrics are edgy, if not actually, dodgy but this talented cast brought a vigour and electric energy to make the stage sizzle and shimmer with young fresh condifent talent.
Sarah Power seemed to come out of nowhere to star as Tracy and I was so impressed with her acting, singing and cool dancing. Another star to add to the growing Waterford list. Jack Casey also impressed as dad, Wilbur, with poise, great moves and snappy dialogue. His work in Timeless To Me was excellent. Glenn Murphy as Edna, the frumpish mother of Tracy, was outstanding and superb. Every time I see this young man he just gets better and better. A total performer, he was always supportive and I’m glad David Hennessy allowed him co-direct. I should have stood and applauded him at the finale but as nobody else was upstanding, I didn’t.
But this just wasn’t a show of a few wonderful key players and performers. The characterisations were great. Eoghan Flynn was a spot-on Sketch, with Alex White, Stephen Breen, John Power. Katie King shone in several parts and Eoin Sheridan leapt out of the crowd with at least three excellent cameos. Another face for the future.
Jolly Ryan was a great Little Inez. Evan Croke was impressive as Seaweed and Vicky Sheridan – her Big Blonde And Beautiful was a showstopper.
Aileen Cotter shone as Amber and Sinead Lyons was something else as Velma – a baddie with attitude and Miss Lyons was splendid in the part.
Adam Phelan was essential as Corny Collins and Paul White never put a smile astray as the hunk Link.
Another new star in the making was Katie Duggan as Penny, who went from Dorky to Dreamy in two acts.
Stage Manager Brian Juckey Collins made a flying appearance as a hot dogging stall vendor. Aidan McGrath lit with style an impressive and cost effective Paul Barry set.
Avril Musgrae and Elaine Tighe designed wonderful costumes for the many styles and changes. Ali Murphy and Lavina Cislaighi provided a splendid wig service and Melanie O’Driscoll did wonders with make-up.