Music: Tom Snow
Writer: Dean Pitchford
Adaptor: Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie
Director: Racky Plews
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
It was turned into a film back in 1983, starring Kevin Bacon and Sarah Jessica Parker, but on stage Footloose The Musical is less of a hit.
The stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, like the movie, is based on the extraordinary true story of a Bible Belt Conservative American society that banned dancing for nearly 90 years. It tells the tale of one strong-willed city boy Ren (Thomas Cotran) who relocates to rural America, begins a rebellion against the law, and fights tirelessly to get the town of Bomont back moving to the musics beat.
It is an actor-musician production that has all the makings of being a real success – a concept full of potential, an impressive cast list including Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore and Gareth Gates as Willard, and some memorable musical numbers. However, for a show that has dance at its very core, Matthew Cole’s choreography is too simplistic, and the majority of the cast appear clumsy with their movement. Now this would be understandable at the beginning of the show, when dancing is still banned, but as time progresses and especially by the end iconic number Footloose, the wow factor should be oozing from the stage. Sadly, this is not the case.
However, the show, which is directed by Racky Plews, is saved somewhat by the female vocalists of the musical – Hannah Price, who plays Ariel, being the real stand-out star. Her performance quality is similar to that of West End and Broadway star Caissie Levy, and her voice tone is simply glorious. Joanne Sawyer, as Rusty, also offers a highlight with her performance in Let’s Hear it For the Boy, and Nolan’s part in Learning to Be Silent is enjoyable. The set, too, is designed well, and ensures slick and easy transitions between scenes.
Overall the musical is in desperate need of a polish, with the male members of the cast needing to up their game to meet the higher standards of the girls. It must be noted that on the opening night in Manchester, the lead role of Ren was played by understudy Thomas Cotran. While his vocals to Tom Snow’s music are good, they are overshadowed by Price – who plays his love interest – and his dancing is in need of rehearsing.
The criticism does not include Gates, whose geeky, awkward and comedic role does show off his versatility as an actor/musician. His one-liners and cheeky faces provide some of the best moments of the evening, and he has a wonderful ability to transform the previously quiet audience into giggly girls, who sound more like they are on a hen do than in the theatre.
Unfortunately though, Gates and the female vocalists are not enough to save this production, which is in desperate need of tightening up before it can truly allow audiences to “let loose” and kick off those Sunday shoes…
Runs until 19 March.