Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Curtain Rises on a School Play Spectacular; Hairspray Is Tackled on the Northeren Stage

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The Curtain Rises on a School Play Spectacular; Hairspray Is Tackled on the Northeren Stage

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE Culture Editor

Girls play boys in Newcastle High School for Girls' production of Hairspray HIRE one of the region's biggest professional stages for your school show and you set the bar high - but the girls performing Hairspray at Northern Stage have certainly risen to the challenge.

More than 100 pupils at Newcastle High School for Girls are putting on the musical with catchy songs, big hair and a plot that tackles racism and body shaming. At the dress rehearsal they proved themselves a match for the professionals and the box office was doing brisk business.

Anna Dobson, the school's director of drama, said: "They've been wanting to do this for absolutely years but we've always said no because it seemed so controversial.

"How do you say that if you're black you can't do that part and if you're white you can't do that part? "But this time we decided there was enough diversity in the school, as well as enough talent, to cast it black and white."

Hairspray, which first saw light of day as a 1988 film by writer, director and producer John Waters, is set in Baltimore in 1962.

Dance-mad teen Tracy Turnblad is desperate to appear on The Corny Collins Show, a TV dance programme, and isn't going to let a few excess pounds hold her back.

But another girl who auditions is rejected for being black and is told about the 'Negro Day' edition of the show which takes place once a month and is for people like her.

The show follows indefatigable Tracy as she champions the cause of racial integration with the help of Motormouth Maybelle, the record shop owner who hosts the Negro Day programme.

In her programme note, Anna Dobson explains that in early 1960s America: "TV networks were hard at work creating the image of the 'American Dream' on set.

"However, the world outside the black and white box was changing rapidly as a fight for human rights and equality was gaining momentum."

Anna knows a thing or two about young talent. As a stalwart of the People's Theatre in Newcastle she directed future film star Andrea Riseborough in productions including Dick Whittington and Romeo and Juliet (she played the male role of Mercutio).

Did she stand out from the crowd? "Oh, yes."

" Perhaps, in this production, there are some who will follow in the footsteps of the versatile Miss Riseborough whose films include Made inOne of the like Hairspray shows better it people Dagenham, Brighton Rock and The Death of Stalin.

Tracy is played with great aplomb by 17-yearold Millie Hackett, from Gosforth, who was desperate for the part and is also desperate to act professionally.

She is studying drama, psychology and biology at A level but has been auditioning for drama schools and said: "Acting is all I want to do now. …

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