NORTHWICH’S very own Freya Sutton received a well deserved standing ovation from a packed audience at The Lowry Theatre on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old is making her professional theatre debut in musical comedy Hairspray, playing the leading role of Tracy Turnblad.

And our homegrown newcomer certainly holds her own against the production’s big name cast members Mark Benton, playing Tracy’s mother Edna Turnblad, Lucy Benjamin, playing Velma Von Tussle, Marcus Collins, playing Seaweed J Stubbs, and Sandra Marvin, playing Motormouth Maybelle.

In a high-energy, technicolour production jam-packed with big personalities, Freya, from Antrobus, positively effervesces off the stage – and straight into the collective hearts of the audience.

Tracy Turnblad is a plump teenager with enormous hair and a matching enthusiasm for life and Freya plays her with great innocence, passion and an infectious sense of fun.

She has spent three years studying for a musical theatre diploma at London’s Italia Conti – time well spent if her singing voice, stage presence and sharp moves in the dance numbers are anything to go by.

The story, set in 1962 Baltimore, centres on Tracy as she follows her apparently unlikely dreams to dance on the Corny Collins Show, win the heart of Link, the show’s heartthrob, inspire her mother, oh, and the small task of overcoming prejudice and racial segregation.

Masterful performances are given by all the cast, as you would expect in a professional production, with Mark Benton’s hilarious and at times unexpectedly touching portrayal of Edna Turnblad, Lucy Benjamin’s classic ‘love to hate’ character Velma Von Tussle, Marcus Collins’ likeable and super cool Seaweed J Stubbs and the jaw-dropping voice of Sandra Marvin as Motormouth Maybelle.

At the show I saw, even the audience joined in with the final number, You Can’t Stop the Beat, which is testement to the story’s values of being inclusive and proud of who you are – Tracy can’t see why everyone can’t dance together regardless of colour or size and, at the end, both cast and audience are on their feet.

Hairspray is described as the ‘ultimate feel-good show’ and I concur – I’d defy anyone to watch it without so much as a smile.

• Hairspray is on at The Lowry until February 23.