Performed at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.
Set in the quiet town of ‘Bomont’ in Bible-belt America, Footloose the musical was a very ambitious choice of show for a cast of third-year drama school students. However, the musical theatre graduates of the Guildford School of Acting pulled it off with all the style and professionalism of a West End production.
Alex Jordan-Mills was perfectly cast as Ren McCormack, the cheeky rule-breaking city boy who wastes no time in disrupting the humdrum lives of the town’s residents. This is a role that demands unfailing stamina and an irresistible charisma and it is safe to say that Jordan-Mills succeeded admirably. He was complemented by the talented Rosie Needham, who fit the part of sassy, flirtatious Ariel down to a tee. Needham found just the right balance of vulnerability and stubborn teenage insolence.
A further example of expert casting came in the form of our second couple, the dim-witted hillbilly Willard and fiery tomboy Rusty, played by Sam Robinson and Jodie Steele. The latter’s vocals were flawless, while Robinson’s exceptional comic timing brought light relief from the darker moral dilemmas going on around them. And together their onstage chemistry was mesmerising.
Yet another joy to watch was Ariel’s female duo of ever-supportive best friends, Urleen and Wendy Jo, played by Molly Stewart and Sophie Mercell. Both girls proved themselves to be brilliant comedy actresses while also possessing strong singing voices.
Charlotte Knowles gave a stunning rendition of ‘Can You Find It in Your Heart’ as Vi Moore, the Reverend Moore’s long-suffering wife. This was one of the harder parts for a young graduate to play, with the role being an older and slightly more sombre character in the piece, but Knowles was utterly enchanting as she struggled with her grief for the son she lost three years before.
The impressive use of a large, moveable set (designed by Diego Pitarch) and the seamless transitions between scenes and song changes only served to add further to the overall high quality of the show, directed and choreographed by Gary Lloyd, with musical direction from George Dyer. As, too, did the unstoppable energy of the ensemble actors, who performed the challenging dance choreography with notable flair.
On the whole this was a fun, uplifting and very well-executed piece, which managed to showcase all the graduates to their best abilities. A thoroughly enjoyable production which brought a really fresh, contemporary feel to a musical packed with 80s classics.
Ren – ALEX JORDAN-MILLS
Ariel – ROSIE NEEDHAM
Rusty – JODIE STEELE
Urleen – MOLLY STEWART
Wendy Jo – SOPHIE MERCELL
Chuck – MATT BLAKER
Willard – SAM ROBINSON
Rev Moore – CELLEN CHUGG JONES
Vi Moore – CHARLOTTE KNOWLES
Ethel McCormack – SCARLET WILDERINK
Lyle – LIAM CHRISTOPHER-LLOYD
Travis – GREG BERNSTEIN
Principal Clark – HYWEL DOWSELL
Ensemble/Betty Blast – JO-ANNE VAN STEENSEL
Ensemble/Melissa – CHARLOTTE HAINES
Ensemble/Eleanor – CHRISTINA BENNINGTON
Ensemble/Uncle Wes – JAMES SINCLAIR
Ensemble/Cowboy Boy – LUKA MARKUS
Ensemble/Matt – BEN SEL
Ensemble/Rory – SCOTT WAUGH
Ensemble/Cop – MICHAEL COLBOURNE
Ensemble – LAURA BENAZAIZE
With: LIZZIE WALKER, HERMIONE LYNCH, LAUREN CHIA, ABIGAIL CARTER- SIMPSON, FRANCESCA BUNCE, WILL RICHARDSON, OLI EVANS