Talented young cast had this show in the can

The cast of Hairspray from Valley Academy who brought the house down at Burnley Mechanics Theatre

The cast of Hairspray from Valley Academy who brought the house down at Burnley Mechanics Theatre

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With a cast of at least 50 youngsters, aged from four to 18, one of the best productions of the high energy musical Hairspray I have ever seen played to a packed house at Burnley Mechanics Theatre.

I certainly wasn't expecting such a polished, slick and mesmerising performance from a young, amateur cast.

But polished to perfection these young stars were from Valley Academy. Now in its nineth year this was their fourth show at the Mechanics and in a word it was a triumph.

I love musicals, I grew up on them, but I have to admit Hairspray is not one of my favourites. But I was swept away with the enthusiasm of the young cast who had clearly put months of hard work and effort into making this a first class show.

Although basically a comedy, Hairspray also has a serious message about prejudice, racism, snobbery and also body issues for young women.It is packed with toe tapping songs, dance routines, fast paced jokes and slick dialogue.

But this young cast handled all that with real aplomb and professionalism.

The story centres around the main character, Tracy Turnblad, a young girl who nurses a burning ambition to appear on TV talent programme called the Corny Collins Show.

Played by Leah Aspden and Hollie Skillings, Leah was in the role when I went to see the show and she was superb, with the right amount of enthusiasm without going over the top. The audience had real empathy with her as she battled against the odds to make it onto the show and also get the star, heartthrob Link Larkin, played by Curtis Blanchard-Lewis, to fall in love with her.

Tracy's parents, Wilbur and Edna, were played by Issac Heeks and Tom Connolly. Edna is always traditionally played by a man and Tom was a sheer joy in the role. It would have been easy to imitate the part that has been played by the late Divine and also John Travolta in film versions of the musical but Tom put his own stamp on the role, playing Edna in a very understated way.

He has some of the best lines in the show and his timing was perfect.

It was also wonderful to see some of the younger members of the cast, some of them looked as young as three, really getting into the spirit of the show.

And a live band to play the songs, such as You Can't Stop the Beat, Timeless, Good Morning Baltimore and It Takes Two only adds to the depth of this show.

Other cast members included: Corny Collins (Robbie Wallwork) Motormouth Maybelle (Rebekah Rawstron) Seaweed J. Stubbs (Daniel Higgins)

Velma Von Tussle (Natasha Mae Lees) Amber Von Tussle ( Darcy Kellar) Penny Pingleton ( Melissa Rose) Prudy Pingleton (Olivia Bell)

Little Inez (Kizzy Wood and Olivia Altham ) Spritzer/Mr Pinky (William Grimshaw) Matron (Chloe Cunliffe) Gym Teacher (Claire Cunliffe)

Dynamites ( Elisha Callan, Nicola Turner, Rachel Schofield)