Theatre: Hairspray (2023)

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Off to our favourite West-End-Theatre-that’s-not in-the-West-End… Kilworth House Theatre!

Well, it is west of Kettering! πŸ˜‰

Kilworth House Theatre?

I must admit, I’d never heard of Kilworth Theatre before we moved to Northamptonshire. Since our discovery, we’ve been coming here pretty much every year to see their latest production. The Theatre is unique in that it’s privately owned and part of the 38 acres occupied by the nearby Kilworth House Hotel (where we spent our Honeymoon night, back in 2011). Celia Mackay is the brains behind it all and also happens to produce all their err, productions. Opened in 2007, the Theatre seats an audience of 547 and where the raked seating ensures that everyone has a great view of the stage. It’s an outdoor theatre too, but even with the British weather, you’re unlikely to get wet as that part is covered! The performers aren’t quite so lucky though – although the stage is covered, the perimeter/entry/exit routes for the performers is exposed (as we were to witness today!) 😲

It’s still known locally as ‘Kilworth House Theatre’ but was recently re-named The Celia Mackay Theatre in honour of its founder.

2023’s Production

Last year we saw Carousel here, and the year before that, Memories of The Musicals. For 2023, it’s…

Together with fellow-Kilworth-lovers, Jo, Janet and Carol, we’d purchased tickets for their 2.30 matinΓ©e performance. One of the joys of Kilworth is that it’s always West End quality without the West End prices. Additionally, it’s only a short(ish) drive away, plus they always offer Saturday matinΓ©es too! Easy on the wallet and easy to get to, so what’s not to love!? πŸ‘. But wait, there’s more! Free parking, free picnic spaces and a reasonably priced Bar complete the Kilworth experience! Today’s weather forecast was very wet with a chance of even more rain, so the picnic opportunity was dumped, in favour of a late breakfast beforehand at the very local (and ever-reliable) Old Forge Tea Room in Cranford.

We arrived in good time and were soon in our seats. As usual, it was well-supported with pretty-much a capacity crowd! None of us had seen Hairspray before and didn’t really know the plot, but I’d read that the main theme is ‘racial prejudice and freedom of expression’, so it’ll be interesting to see how that translates into a ‘musical comedy’! πŸ€”πŸ€”. And so, with a firm hold πŸ˜‰ on the programme, we settled down for Kilworth’s production.

Main Cast

Tracy Turnblad played by Charlotte Hammond-Jones
Edna Turndblad played by Michael J Batchelor (the funniest drag act I’ve seen in years!)
Wilbur Turnblad played by Steven Serlin
Velma von Tussle played by Jenny Gayner
Amber von Tussle played by Holly Willock
Link Larkin played by Alex Lodge
Seaweed J Stubbs played by Nay-Nay
Motormouth Maybelle played by Ayesha Maynard (a voice that could knock down walls!)
Corny Collins played by Liam Doyle

As usual, we weren’t allowed to snap any photos during the performance, so the obligatory group selfie below was the last before curtain-up!

Wow! What a performance!! πŸ‘πŸ‘. We’ve enjoyed all their productions to date, but this one was in a league of its own. The singing was excellent, the choreography, faultless. Considering we hardly knew any of tunes going in (apart from “You Can’t Stop The Beat!”) we were soon tapping our feet to a variety of 50s and 60s style-tunes. It was topical too – body shaming, racial discrimination and a man in drag! And do you know what? They pulled it off as a musical-comedy with ease! (much to my surprise!). Michael Bradley led the orchestra, as usual , who were at the top of their game.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, given the appalling weather, the Stage Crew worked doubly-hard to keep the rain off the Stage – all-in-all a real team effort. Well done everyone! πŸ‘πŸ˜€

It’s the last performance is tomorrow, so be quick if you fancy a thoroughly entertaining production!

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