Hairspray has a lasting hold on Falkirk audiences

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Going to see a production when you don’t really know the storyline has its benefits – it’s a totally new experience and you have nothing to compare it with.

However, when you only lasted ten minutes watching the film version before turning over, then there could be more than a little apprehension.

But I needn’t have worried. The Central Theatre Productions performance of Hairspray in Falkirk Town Hall this week totally blew me away.

From curtain up the cast’s adrenaline filled the building: strong musical numbers, great choreography and a fabulous script all added up to a highly entertaining evening.

It is also probably the best amateur dramatic show I’ve seen where every lead had a strong singing voice – no need to overlook a few wavering notes because someone’s acting was so good.

This is only the company’s second production and I’m sure everyone who saw the performances from Sunday to Wednesday will eagerly be awaiting details of what is planned next.

Set in 1962 Baltimore, the storyline centres on overweight high school student Tracy Turnblad and her ambition to dance on the Corny Collins TV show.

But there’s a lot more to it than that as the script looks at racial prejudice, individuality and how people are perceived by their peers and others.

The starring role of Tracy was more than ably filled by Danielle Brown who appeared to take on the character and make it her own.

From her first moment on stage in the opening number Good Morning Baltimore to the energy-filled finale You Can’t Stop the Beat, she owned the stage... and didn’t the audience love her.

Tracy’s father Wilbur was played by Darren Jalland, who I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that compared to some of the cast, he is a veteran of performances on the town hall stage. And he knows how to milk those comic moments.

The role of Tracy’s mum Edna is always played by a man, most notably John Travolta and Michael Ball. However, a new star was certainly shining in Cameron Emslie. Still only 17, he played it with a maturity far above his years – always finding just the right level of camp and pathos as required.

The duet with Wilbur, You’re Timeless to Me, was fabulous and the gap in ages and experience was not apparent.

It’s amazing what you can learn from programme notes. Who could believe that last year Melanie Bruce was in the audience and in 2019 had one of the lead roles as Motormouth Mabel. Her stage debut, particularly Big, Blonde and Beautiful, shows how much she has to offer and she appeared a confident performer.

Likewise Dedei Hainey as Little Inez is only 12 years old but gave a faultless performance.

Lynne Shore as Velma von Tussle and Amy Young as her daughter Amber were this production’s ‘baddies’. And didn’t they relish those roles.

They made a fabulous double act as the TV producer out to ensure that nothing, especially Tracy, got in the way of her daughter becoming Miss Teenage Hairspray.

The whole show was delivered at breakneck speed and in American accents, but the script delivery was perfect. Demonstrated ably by Aleisha McColl as Tracy’s friend Penny Lou Pingleton and Linsay Brown as her mother Prudy.

Tracy’s love interest was Link Larkin (Taylor Williams) who was the boyfriend of Amber but as with all good storylines, she finally got her man. Their duet in It Takes Two showed off their voices to perfection.

Colin Fawkes was TV presenter Corny Collins and Richard Cook his show’s sponsor Mr Spritzer, another entertaining double act.

The dance skills of Kristian Kinnon were perfectly suited to his role as Seaweed, the dancer and son of Motormouth Mabel. Like so many of this cast, he is from the Falkirk area. It was almost difficult to believe that so much homegrown talent is out there but thanks to the production team of Adele Driver, Sarah Galbraith and Alexandra McArthur, it was given a chance to shine brightly.

Tracy Turnblad – Danielle Brown; Edna Turnblad – Cameron Emslie; Wilbur Turnblad – Darren Jalland; Link Larkin – Taylor Wiliams; Corny Collins – Colin Fawkes; Motormouth Mable – Melanie Bruce; Velma von Tussle – Lynne Shore; Amber von Tussle – Amy Young; Penny Lou Pingleton – Aleisha McColl; Seaweed – Kristian Kinnon; Little Inez – Dedei Hainey; Mr Spritzer – Richard Cook; Prudy Pingleton – Linsay Brown.

Company – Ellis Archibald, Amy Brown, Kelsi Balfour, Madeleine Brown, Aimee Bygrave, Sophie Bygrave, Leanne Cook, Hazel Craig, Jasmine Crilley, Hayley Doyle, Freya Eng, Aime Frew, Grace Gillies, Emily Greggory, Elsa Murphy-Heeley, Holly Henderson, Stuart Jenkins, Morgan Lennox, Koni Lumsden, Myron Macbeth, Paige Macbeth, Ava Malarky, Eve Malarky, Claire McColl, Alix McGee, Erin McGinley, Jordan Moir, Sarah Parker, Kirsten Sharp, Rylee Smith, Carol Wallace, Hannah Wallace, Julie Wallace, Aidan Witty, Abi Young.