Footloose: the Musical
12th to 30th Sept 2017
“Based on the 1984 screen sensation starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose: The Musical tells the story of city boy Ren, who has to move to a rural backwater in America where dancing is banned. All hell breaks out as Ren breaks loose and soon has the whole town up on its feet. Featuring classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and the unforgettable title track, Footloose: The Musical is set to take the world by storm once again, bursting with youthful spirit, dazzling dance and electrifying music.
When the film was released in 1984, it became the highest-grossing February release in US film history. The soundtrack album ended the year-long reign of Michael Jackson’s Thriller at number one and went on to top album charts all over the world, eventually selling in excess of 17 million copies. Footloose was nominated for a Golden Globe, and both the title song and Let’s Hear It for the Boy received Academy Award nominations. Footloose: The Musical first opened on Broadway in 1998 where it ran for 709 performances, with a London production following in 2006.”
Review by Richard Lambert, 4 Stars
Footloose launched in 1984 and received awards for the music, accolade by audiences, but the critics penned it “…trash – high powered fodder for the teen market… The only person to come out of the film better off is the smooth-cheeked, pug-nosed (Kevin) Bacon, who gives a cocky but likeable Mr. Cool performance!”
So, perhaps there is no deep message in the book, and perhaps it’s self-indulgent to have a cast that sing, dance, play instruments and move the Set around, and perhaps the music is much louder than the vocals – but it’s a fun night out that remains an audience crowd-pleaser. As evidenced by the majority of the audience giving it a standing ovation for the Press Night at the Peacock Theatre.
With dodgy American accents, over-acting and dialect that’s sometimes difficult to understand the overall energy of the cast sufficiently carries the show along. A range of talent is evident within the cast but when they also play the musical instruments you’d have to expect different strengths and weaknesses along the way. The 4th wall was rarely looked at and there’s absolutely no fear of this 4th wall ever being broken!
Joshua Dowen, playing the lead role of Ren McCormack, is a pocket rocket with huge biceps who leaps and bounds his way through the show. Surprisingly the “name” star, Gareth Gates, is not the lead here, he plays the 2nd principal Willand – a straw-chewing country bumpkin who is a loyal friend to Ren. Willand has a six-pack to die for and, for some reason not made particularly clear, he strips to his boxers for a country dance across a car. Gratifyingly pointless which the audience appreciated by going wet and wild!
Maureen Nolan was the preacher’s wife, a role she played with elegance and style. Her beautiful songs were a nice touch to pace the high energy rock feel of this production.
Sara Perks impressive multi-tiered Set was clever – revealing many configurations for different locations. Most of these configurations were motored around by the Cast. Occasionally additional crew guys with flashing LED wireless headsets (like an invasion of the Cyborgs) would also come on stage to move the Set. With so much constant running around of the Cast as they changed the Set, and their moving around between musical intsruments, there was a lot of upstaging of the main characters. It was a very busy show which would undoubtedly have supporters for those who like to see “backstage”.
The Stage Depth was filled with telegraph poles and a well-lit cyclorama. Humphrey McDermott chose some lovely Colour Combinations in his lighting design and enhanced the Set and Musical numbers hitting the musical nuances and creating some fabulous tableaux.
Matthew Coles‘ energetic choreography was delightful. There is a conflict with the story here – the teenagers live in a town where dancing is banned. This fact seem to come and go through the production – dancing is banned when the story is progressed but the ban evaporates when someone sings a song. Hmmm. Suspend your belief and don’t ponder the story too much! Just enjoy the song and dance when it comes along!
This is a big show to tour and always impressive that such large sets and lighting rigs manage to load into the Peacock Theatre.
This is a production that will lift you up and make you feel happy to be there. You can tap along and go with the flow. It’s the end stop of their tour and only in London for a few weeks so now’s your only chance to see Footloose: the Musical!
(Photo credit Matt Martin)