DanceDramaMusicalReviewSouth West

Footloose – Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Reviewer: Kelyn Luther

Music: Tom Snow (additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman)

Lyrics: Dean Pitchford

Choreographer: Matt Cole

Director: Racky Plews

Based on the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon, teenager Ren (Joshua Hawkins) moves to a small town which has banned dancing and rock music after a tragic accident, declaiming it as immoral. Bored by small town life, Ren shakes things up with dance and clashes with Reverend Moore (Darren Day), the main influence behind the ban. He causes further problems by falling in love with Reverend Moore’s daughter Ariel (Lucy Munden), who has gone off the rails.

This stage adaptation retains a fair chunk of the film’s soundtrack, even though sometimes the lyrics are rewritten to fit the narrative of the musical. This approach actually works quite well- e.g. ‘Somebody’s Eyes’ is transformed from a love song into a song about the prying eyes of a small town community. The iconic songs (the title track, ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’ and ‘Holding Out for A Hero) thankfully retain their lyrics.

Tom Snow’s original songs are perhaps outshone by the rest of the production. Though they do their job in moving the narrative along, the run-of-the-mill musical-theatre ballads don’t fit with the upbeat eighties pop sound that makes up the rest of the score. The show is best when it is at its most exuberant, such as ‘Footloose’ or ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’.

The show’s aesthetic is fun, frivolous and very eighties, particularly the costumes and Matt Cole’s bouncy choreography which is full of infectious spirit. Further adding to this spirit is the cast members playing their own instruments, which provides an energy and extra dimension to the show, rather than simply plonking the film on stage.

The part of Ariel is the most dramatically fleshed out and Munden does an excellent job of portraying a deeper sadness than teenage rebellion. Jake Quickenden as the dim but loveable Willard and Oonagh Cox as Rusty are charming and provide good comic relief. Cox in particular embodies the innocence and exuberance that the local teens are unable to suppress. Darren Day is hampered by uninspiring ballads even though they are sung pleasantly, and is better in the dramatic non-singing parts. Considering the role is key to the show, it would have been nice for him to get one big number.

If you can overlook the somewhat unconvincing plot and the weaker original numbers, Footloose is a solid piece of toe-tapping entertainment delivered with enthusiasm.

Runs until 19 February 2022

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Eighties energy!

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. 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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