Guildford School of Acting – Footloose

A scene from the GSA production of Footloose at the Yvonne Arnuad Theatre, Guildford. Picture: Mark Dean

A scene from the GSA production of Footloose at the Yvonne Arnuad Theatre, Guildford. Picture: Mark Dean

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.

Katy Daghorn

CAST

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

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