Footloose the Musical continues at the Richmond Theatre until 20 May and then tours until 30 September.
Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
Inevitably the 2017 national tour of Footloose the Musical will delight audiences throughout the country. It is without doubt a high energy show and the cast members must be applauded for their enthusiastic performances.
The successful 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon film was adapted for the stage by the original writer Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie in 1998, playing on Broadway for 709 performances. The London production opened at the Novello Theatre in 2006.
Ren McCormack (Joshua Dowen) and his mother (Lindsay Goodhand) move from Chicago to the small town of Bomont.
Ren discovers that due to a fatal car accident involving four young people returning from a dance, a law has been passed making dancing illegal. Ren decides, with the support of his fellow students, that they should appeal against the law and be allowed to hold a ‘prom’ – but can he convince the governing town council and more importantly the very influential minister, Reverend Shaw Moore (Reuven Gershon)?
Watching actor-musicians playing a variety of instruments while singing and dancing can really enhance the theatregoing experience.
The actors are extremely capable musicians, but sadly the various instruments give a really clunky feel to the action.
The success of the work of an actor-musician is when the performer and instrument become one, but that doesn’t happen in this production – and some of the staging, such as Goodhand laying down and kicking her legs around while playing the sax, is totally unnecessary.
The cast is headed by Gareth Gates, playing Willard, who befriends Ren. Gates has great charm and stage presence, and when he shows offs his torso during one routine it brings much delight to many of the female members of the audience.
Dowen is adequate in the lead role but lacks what Gates has in abundance – charisma. Connor Going is a convincing bad boy in the role of Chuck, while Hannah Price plays the minister’s rebellious daughter Ariel. Emma Fraser and Gracie Lai really stand out in the smaller roles of Wendy-Jo and Urleen – they are both very watchable.
Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore is terrific and her rendition of ‘Can You Find It In Your Heart?’ is a highlight. An appeal to the wardrobe department – can someone find her a pair of shoes that fit?
This is just the start of the tour and there were technical problems, which will probably be ironed out. The sound balance was not great – often too loud and drowning out the vocals.
Some members of the cast need to watch their diction, at times the dialogue is like listening to gobbledegook!
The set, designed by Sara Perks, is effective but does make the stage look cramped, which doesn’t help the repetitive choreography from Matt Cole – there is way too much thrusting, gyrating and body fondling, and very little other content. The performers have mixed dance ability and the routines do little to mask this.
Racky Plews’ production doesn’t quite hit the mark. It all feels a little contrived and it could do to be slicker and lose about ten minutes from the running time.
However, with popular numbers like the title song, ‘Let’s Hear It For the Boy’ and ‘Holding Out For a Hero’, an extremely popular ‘star’ name, an energetic cast and some very obvious jokes, it is going to be a crowd-pleaser.