MusicalReviewSouth West

Footloose – Cardiff New Theatre

Writer: Dean Pitchford
Director: Racky Plews
Choreographer: Matthew Cole
Reviewer: Beth Steer

Fast on the heels of the 1980s film sensation, Footloose has long been a firm musical favourite, known for its sizzling combination of teenage rebellion and romance, and Racky Plews’ remastering does not disappoint.

Set in Bomont, a small town in middle America with an equally small mind, Footloose follows Chicago-born city boy Ren (Luke Baker) as he makes the move to the rural country. On arriving, Ren discovers that the town – big on Christianity and Sunday school – has banned dancing, forbidding all forms of fun as he knows it following a tragic accident years ago in which several teens died.

Encountering a community that follows the word of their much-loved preacher, Reverend Shaw Moore (Nigel Lister), and places more store on praying than partying, it isn’t long before Ren itches to break the rules, and leads the teenage population astray by kickin’ off his Sunday shoes and breaking out into dance.

A struggle between city and country – articulated through teenage rebellion, forbidden romance and illicit dancing – ensues, as Ren leads the town to forget the accident that caused ‘all the fun’ to be banned and embrace the ‘togetherness’ that dancing can bring.

Stuffed with pop numbers that have become classic dance floor hits such as Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and the unforgettable title track, a young and talented cast creates a performance that has people dancing and singing in their seats.

As Ren, Baker gives a fantastic vocal performance – a poppy voice with an undertone of grit – and captures his character’s teenage angst perfectly. He is matched by Hannah Price who plays Ariel – the preacher’s daughter that isn’t so holy – who sasses her way through her vocal numbers with a strong performance, strutting her dance moves in the red cowboy boots that her daddy so thoroughly disapproves of.

Gareth Gates – who appears on stage to much heckling from delighted women that remember his Pop Idol days – plays Willard, the goofy, dungaree-clad teen who wants to find a way to woo his girl, Rusty (Joanna Sawyer). His performance is accomplished, adding a touch of comedy with his slapstick jokes and clumsy dancing, and Sawyer counters this with her seamless performance and strong vocal.

It’s a crowd pleaser, and the speckling of stars throughout the cast – including Maureen Nolan as Vi – delights the audience. Full of harmless, teenage fun, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, and by the time the sparkly cowboy hats come out in the second act, you’ll be secretly wishing you could barn dance.

Runs until 5 March 2016 | Image:David Ellis

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Guilty pleasure

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