Writers: Dean Pitchford &Walter Bobbie
Director: Racky Plews
Choreographer: Matthew Cole
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
A town that has banned dancing, the rebellious daughter of an overbearing minister, one of the Nolan sisters and a denim-clad Gareth Gates; do you need any more in a musical? Set inAmerica’s Bible Belt, some salacious teenagers are desperate for fun in Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie’sFootloose.
For those unfamiliar with the 1984 film,Footloose takes place in the small town of Bomont. An area of fervent Christianity where the Reverend holds a key place in the heart of the community. New residents Ren McCormack (Luke Baker) and his mother (Nicky Swift) receive a lukewarm welcome. Growing close to Reverend Shaw’s (Nigel Lister) daughter Ariel (Hannah Price), big city boy Ren struggles to express himself in such a stifling corner of the world.
The vocals and choreography throughout this new production are simply sublime. Numbers such as I Need a Hero and Somebody’s Eyes prove that Price, Sawyer and the remainder of the ladies are certainly in no need of said hero. The clarity and depth of Sawyer and Price’s voices are particularly worthy of high praise. No one in the cast fails to pull their weight, all delivering strong performances, and everyone on stage is a triple threat with firm vocals, all playing at leastone instrument live and boy, can the whole cast dance.
There’s something honest in the choreography, yes it’s tight, and its rhythm is spot-on, but there’s a naturalness here that is lacking in so many productions. When the audience witnesses Ren completely release his emotions through dance, he isn’t perfect and nor should he be. The movements are that of a teenager filled with rage and resentment, not a perfectly poised and trained professional. It’s a paradox; the choreography of Matthew Cole is that of a professional and yet it’s constructed in a manner which is innate to the character’s emotions.
From a storytelling perspective, some tension is regrettably lost once we transition from song to spoken word. It is still excellent, but it’s hard to move fully from passionate vocals and maintain that emotional level through spoken word. Price and Swift do this tremendouslywell, but some cannot muster quite the same candour in their delivery.
The lighting and stage design all compliment the tone of the show and the sudden bursts of intense light, elevate the production.
Footloose is a production which will cross generations and cause everyone to cut loose, enjoy themselves and perhaps even prompt the purchase of some denim hot pants.
Runs until20February 2016 | Image: Matt Martin