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LIGHTNING REVIEW: 'Hairspray' a joyous ride at HHS

"Hairspray," on stage at Hendersonville High School through Saturday night, matches the highest standard in the rich annals of HHS senior plays.

Because memory fades from one May to the next, the audience — this member of the audience at least — forgets just how magical it is to sit in the HHS auditorium and see the seniors pull off this miracle of sight, sound and drama.
This was my eighth straight senior play and I've never sat through a performance that didn't make me think Todd Weakley and Laura Roper were geniuses with the patience of Job, the iron will of Spartacus and the fighting optimism of, well, a high school theater teacher. Weakley, the director, and Roper, the choreographer and dance coach, have managed to exceed their own high standard in creativity.
It's not unusual to see an ensemble of 40-50 at any given time in a Weakley-Roper collaboration. An unspoken pledge of Hendersonville High School — it's in the school bylaws for all I know — is that if you make it to your senior year and you wanna try hoofin' it and you wanna sing in the chorus, the spirit of HHS will make it happen.
The class of 2013 seemed to be more blessed than usual with gifted actors who made the play work by filling key roles.
Everyone knew that Margaret Butler was a pro among less experienced troupers — she grew up at Flat Rock Playhouse and played Liesl in the South Carolina Children's Theatre production of "The Sound of Music" — and as self-absorbed Amber Von Tussle Miss Butler does not disappoint.

Several other stars were born. Among the brightest was Lydia Congdon, who manages to grow before our eyes from skinny sidekick to a strong young woman ready to conquer the world — and Baltimore segregation — in 1962.

Along with Miss Butler's Mean Girl, Page Nevel and Elizabeth Lackey make for very believable Mean Mom and Mean Producer, respectively.
In the lead role of Tracy Turnblad, Zoe Holmes has to carry many scenes, and she does so without error, in singing, dancing and comedy. Riley Case, as Wilbur Turnblad, and Kaleb Schuller, as Edna Turnblad, are her parents. Schuller delivers an inspired performance, getting better all the time as the story hurls Edna into bolder and bolder actions.
The lead ensemble, the Council, is equal to its important role as backup and sometimes leading dancers and singers.
There are too many enjoyable numbers to list, although I'd nominate "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now" and "You're Timeless to Me" as two of the best. "Big, Blonde and Beautiful" featured an ensemble of 20 senior boys in drag and blond wigs and you have to see that to appreciate it. The crowd loved it.
It's worth mentioning that this year's "HHS Senior Play Tradition Maker" is Tom E. Orr, an HHS graduate and English and theater teacher who directed the plays for years. I sure hope he gets to see the 2013 edition.
"You Can't Stop the Beat," an anthem to the triumph of our better angels over our darker ones, brings the entire cast on stage in one happy, colorful, high-hair end to the show. The kids showed a ton of heart and energy all the way to their closing bow, putting their own stamp on a 63-year-old tradition that just gets better and better.