Eleven Charlotte-area high school students are competing in the new theater criticism category of the Blumey Awards, the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ annual musical theater awards program (read more about that here.) Each student writes three reviews; the following is one entry:
No one can be quite sure of how to prepare themselves for the first-ever show they critique. To my misfortunate, I entered the David W. Butler High School auditorium with a pounding headache and a serious case of fatigue. I could already tell that these symptoms, paired with my naturally short attention span, might alter my evaluation of this high school’s rendition of “Hairspray.”
However, this negative outlook quickly changed as I was politely directed to a pair of seats that assured the best sound quality. Shortly after, the production opened with the renowned number “Good Morning Baltimore,” performed by the gifted leading lady, Jillian Sykes. They even included “the flasher who lives next door” in the opening scene, rightfully leading me to believe that the next two hours would be full of naturally executed entertainment; I even forgot to take notes in my journal because I was completely engulfed in the convincing 60s throwback I was observing.
However, I did manage to jot down a few of my favorite aspects and actors every now and then. One of these messy scribbles mentioned how hilarious and memorable Casey Daniel’s performance was, as he fearlessly embraced the feminine role of the voluptuous Edna Turnblad. With every maternal notion and girlish giggle, Daniel continued to convince the audience that he was, in fact, a frantic housewife turned fabulous talent agent.
My barely legible notes went on to remark Branden Cook’s incredible portrayal of Seaweed. His dance moves were effortless, his pitch faultless, and his smile charming. He not only captivated his fellow character Penny, but he seemed to entrance nearly every girl in the audience. The last cast member that truly grabbed my attention was not scribbled about in my notepad. This is mostly because her performance left me truly speechless, and I knew I would remember it long after I wrote my review. This young actress, Chelsey Mack, took on the powerful role of Motormouth Maybelle. I shouldn’t say she simply took on the role, but she nearly perfected it. My seemingly passive stature was shattered as she confidently belted out “I Know Where I’ve Been,” leaving me with wide eyes and sudden chills. The rest of the audience clearly shared the same reaction, as nearly every member of the crowd raised to their feet, presenting Mack with every thespian’s dream: a standing ovation.
As the show came to a close, I realized that I had not checked my watch once, proving this musical to be entertaining enough to overcome my previously mentioned attention span of a toddler. I watched as the cast and crew shed tears and congratulated one another as they wrapped up their last performance; it was evident that these actors left everything on the stage.
Overall, one of my favorite aspects would have to be that this gifted cast did not need an elaborate set to perform a memorable, nostalgic performance of “Hairspray;” all they needed was raw talent and plenty of hair teasing.
This article is part of the Charlotte Arts Journalism Alliance (a consortium of local media dedicated to writing about the arts) and the Blumenthal Student Critic Program.
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