Footloose – the Musical – Milton Keynes Theatre

Director: Racky Plews

Stage Adaptation: Dean Pritchard and Walter Bobbie

Reviewer:Maggie Constable

Pretty much everyone will have heard Footloose or knows the classic musical movie of the 80s and, if not, there are the famous toe-tapping songs such as Holding Out For A Her and Let’s Hear It For The Boy. Milton Keynes Theatre this week hosts the stage adaptation of Footloose – The Musical, a chance to relive the era and to ‘cut loose’.

Footlooseis the story of Ren McCormack, a teenage boy from Chicago. He and his mother move to the backwater town of Bomont in the South after his father abandons them. Ren initially finds himself in disagreement with the majority of the town, especially the bigoted Reverend Shaw. The Reverend has persuaded the town to ban dancing, which Ren just cannot believe and decides to fight against. It is all so different from his beloved Chicago, city of bright lights. With the help of the not-so-innocent Ariel (the Reverend’s daughter) and Willard (a country bumpkin with learning difficulties who becomes his best mate), Ren works to convince the Reverend to let the youngsters dance. The atmosphere of the town is oppressed by the fact that four of its youth were killed in a tragic car accident but dancing helps to heal one and all.
From the moment the curtain rises and the Footloose song begins members of the audience are toe-tapping and singing along. It is positively infectious.

Joint stars of the show are Luke Baker as Ren and Hannah Price as Ariel Moore. There is a definite chemistry between them, their acting is totally believable and their singing/dancing spot on. Baker has plenty of energy and pizazz and makes you feel you know Ren. Price may be debuting here but you wouldn’t know it. She has such confidence and stage presence, a powerful voice and, on top of all that, she plays three instruments no less!

Gareth Gates unexpectedly takes on the part of Willard and does it real justice. He never overdoes the special needs, bringing out the comic value of the role well and with sensitivity. A natural. We all know about his voice but he can certainly move, as well as playing keys and guitar. Joanna Sawyer plays Willard’s love interest and performs with style and believability. She has a lovely voice and delivers songs with real clarity. They make a great pairing. Maureen Nolan plays Vi Moore, the dutiful wife, in a nicely understated fashion. Her singing voice is somewhat scratchy at times but she comes into her own in the second act. David J Higgins as Reverend Shaw Moore gives a very creditable performance and appears to grow into his character as the piece progresses. He has a decent singing voice and clearly enjoys his guitar riffs at the end. Nicky Swift brings us Ren’s mum, Coach Dunbar and Betty, playing sax, keys and flute to boot. She portrays the three different roles so well you almost need to check that it is the same actor, and she clearly has a talent for comedy.

Dancing and singing from the remaining cast are of a high standard and the performers positively leap around the stage, every one of them able to play one or more instruments. Some feat. Much as orchestras are a wonderful bonus, using actors who are musicians works particularly well in this show.

The set is very versatile, is effective and one is rarely aware of the many changes of scene, partly due to the pace and because it becomes integral to the action.

There are so many catchy numbers in Footloose but it is Holding Out For A Hero which really stands out in this show. A wonderful rendition of a great song.

Altogether a fabulous, fun evening’s entertainment.

Runs until 22 October 2016 | Image:David Ellis

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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