With Hairspray just around the corner, the cast are no doubt adding hairgrips to their Christmas lists and gearing up for more rehearsals over the holidays. Over 100 girls will be performing at the show, either on stage or in the band and many more have been involved behind the scenes, designing our publicity material and planning our marketing activity.

All this hard work means that Hairspray is promising to be a sell-out show, so we recommend that you buy your tickets this side of Christmas (tickets make a rather good Christmas present!).
As the performance dates loom, two Year 13 girls are getting a particularly misty eyed about Hairspray as it will be their last show for NHSG. They are Millie Hackett, who will play the fantastic Tracy Turnblad and Maddie Carter, who will play her buddy Penny Pingleton.

Both Millie and Maddie have their sights firmly set on further education and a career in ‘the Business’ as it is affectionately known. So while this might be their last NHSG show, we will know doubt hear more of their successful performances in the future.

Millie has been involved in four NHSG School Musicals in her time at Senior School. Her first two shows saw her in the ensemble for Grease and High School Musical. Last year saw her play comi-tragic hero Action in West Side Story and this year sees her cast in the main part and the heroine of Hairspray.

We asked Millie what she feels is the main challenge of playing Tracy Turnblad. Surprisingly, her answer is not what you might expect. It’s not perfecting the Baltimore accent or the various routines, she responds to the question with: “Dancing in the fatsuit.”

There is a tale in recent theatre folklore of a previous production of the show where Tracy’s bodysuit in question had to be wrung out every night. Thus the role will also be defined by lots of deodorant! Ah, the glamour of show business…

Millie is hoping to study Drama after she completes her A Levels because “I just absolutely love it and I can’t imagine doing anything else”. As well as appearing in the NHSG musicals, Millie has been heavily involved in the NHSG performances for the annual Shakespeare Schools Festival. Of her Prospero in the 2016 Tempest, Millie says: “I really enjoyed it when it was really still and it was just me, talking to the audience, in the spotlight – what a good time!” There’s a twinkle in her eye and we get the feeling she’s only half joking. Spoken like a true performer. And of Hairspray, she promises that it’s “Very Extra”. No one over the age of 18 knows what this actually means, but basically phone the Northern Stage Box Office now…

Her co-star Maddie Carter is also determined to pursue an acting career after school and she always seems to have two or three shows in rehearsal at any one time. This month, she is charming audiences at the People’s Theatre in Heaton with her sassy Princess Cheryl in Aladdin, which followed hot on the heels of her stunning performance as Juliet inRomeo and Juliet for the Shakespeare Schools Festival. Wonderfully cast in the role of Penny in Hairspray, Maddie is also due to play Velma in Chicago at the Wylam Institute.

So how does she juggle it all?
“I don’t!” she laughs.

Maddie has ‘always loved performing”, having been a ballerina since age three and taking singing lessons since Year 4. She has been in every one of the NHSG musicals since Year 7 and is now planning a career in performance after school. This decision has been partly shaped by her enjoyment of her Drama lessons (she is currently studying A Level Drama, as is Millie), so much so that she “wants to do it every day”. Doing a Pantomime with 11 performances at the same time as rehearsals for Hairspray must be tricky, but NHSG Drama Captain Maddie clearly thrives on hard work. She says of pantomime, that quirkily British Theatre Institution: “I love how over the top you can be…it’s more relaxed and the songs are such fun”.

Penny Pingleton is the character that Maddie (and her mum) thought would be perfect for her when they watched the 2007 film in preparation for the Hairspray audition and Maddie is working on getting the definitive amount of squeak into her voice – it’s a balancing act.

So what’s the dream?
“West End, Broadway, or the movies…”

We wish both Maddie and Millie very well – for Hairspray and for a glittering future…

Hairspray is on at Northern Stage from Thursday 25th – Saturday 27th January. Performances are at 7 p.m. with an additional matinee on the Saturday at 2 p.m.
For information and to book tickets ring the Box Office on 0191 230 5151 or visit www.northernstage.co.uk/Event/hairspray#Booknow

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