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Windermere School Students Just Can’t Stop the Beat

[W]ith a cast of over sixty students, Windermere School’s latest stage production, Hairspray, was certainly big. It was also bright, funny and hugely entertaining.

Based on the book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, and with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman, Hairspray follows the life of overweight teenager, Tracy Turnblad. Set in 1960’s Baltimore, Tracy is a big girl with big hair and an even bigger dream – to dance her way on to national TV and into the arms of teen idol, Link Larkin.

Pupils from Years 7 to 13 were involved in the production, both on the stage and behind the scenes, as the story of racial segregation and one girl’s desire to make things right unfolds, accompanied by some fantastic, upbeat tunes, lively dance routines and plenty of laughter.

From the opening chords of ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ to the last notes of ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’, the audience in the school’s Crampton Hall was captivated.

Janet McCallum Hartley, Musical Director and Head of Music at Windermere School, was thrilled with the performance, saying; “When we discovered that we were able to stage this production, we were all very excited. It is such a happy, upbeat musical and we knew the students would relish the challenge. It has been a pleasure working with everyone, and to see it all come together with such professionalism is down to the hard work of all involved. What a performance! ”

Tracy’s big break comes when one of the dancers on the show has to take a nine month leave of absence. Tracy wows in her audition and, using her new-found fame, sets about fighting for racial integration on The Corny Collins Show, winning Link Larkin’s heart along the way.

Katriona Redhead, who played Tracy, loved every minute of the performance; “Playing Tracy has been one of the biggest roles I’ve had and it’s been an incredible experience. The show is so exciting and full of life, something that makes everyone happy, which is why it’s been so enjoyable.”

This year’s cast did have some extra inspiration, when they were offered the chance to take part in a workshop with Layton Williams, who plays the part of Seaweed in the UK professional tour of Hairspray.

For Director Holly Byrom, the standard had been set; “Meeting Layton was a fantastic opportunity for the students. Not only did he teach them all a challenging routine, but he also imparted some sound advice, which paid dividends when it came to the actual performance.”

Ian Lavender, Headmaster at Windermere School, added; “After the success of last year’s School Musical, We Will Rock You, I was not sure about Hairspray, but I should never have doubted another triumph. This was a vibrant, colourful, energetic, passionate and perfectly accomplished production.  There were exceptional performances and a huge amount of praise is due to everybody who took part – the cast, the band, the technical crew, hair and make-up, costume design and set design. The laughter, applause, and tributes were fully deserved. It was also a show with a special resonance today as migration, nationalism and religious racism are much discussed topics. Like all powerful messages, it is laced with humour and a belief that, collectively, we can make the world a fairer place.”

Mr Lavender was also full of praise for one very special trio, Miss Byrom, Mrs McCallum Hartley and Mr Pattinson, adding, “Hairspray is the fifth and final production from this extraordinarily successful team, as Miss Byrom will be leaving the school at Easter. They have been a fabulously successful trio, combing musical virtuosity with some stunning dance choreography, great theatre and poignant acting. On behalf of all the students, families and friends who have been fortunate enough to attend these masterful productions, I would like to congratulate and applaud them.”

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