Footloose at the Churchill Theatre
Footloose the Musical
Footloose is a musical based on the 1984 Kevin Bacon film and it finally reached Bromley as part of its National Tour. When Ren’s father walks out Ren and his mother, they have no choice but to move from Chicago to a small town named Bomont. As the outsiders Ren and his mother are far from made welcome and when he discovers that dancing is banned Ren decides to take matters into his own hands. With the help of his friend Willard and the Preacher’s daughter Ariel he appeals to the town council to let them have a dance. However it takes for Ren to open up and to search for what he has in common with the town folk for them all to discover that they aren’t so different after all.
This version of Footloose is performed as an actor musician show with all but one actors doubling up as a part as well as member of the band. I found this an odd choice of show to perform in this way. One of the main draws of Footloose is that is a high octane dance show. By introducing the fact that the cast are also in the band you either restrict the dance or you lose a large portion of the cast in each number to provide the musical accompaniment. I would have preferred a band on stage (or in the pit) and the cast devoted to full out dance routines. From a plot point of view it jarred that in a town where dance and many forms of enjoyment are banned, that playing music was acceptable. My final gripe with this aspect was that is was not particularly done in an artistic or clever way. Every time a song was about to begin you would see members of the cast simply drift onto the stage with instrument in hand.
The cast were all clearly very good dancers with Ren, played by Joshua Dowen, hardly given a moment to stand or sit still. When Willard (Gareth Gates) finally learnt to dance and kicked off his Sunday shoes his dance skills were equally impressive. The choreography was fun and had nice references to 80’s moves within it, yet fresh enough to be relevant.
The show itself isn’t rocket science but it is good wholesome fun. Some of the jokes were predictable but I found that I let this wash over me due to the hit songs such as ‘Footloose,’ ‘Lets Hear it for The Boy’ and ‘Holding Out For A Hero.’
Ariel, played by Hannah Price, was convincing as the teenage Preachers daughter. She had the perfect look for this part flitting from butter wouldn’t melt to swoon material for Ren. Gareth Gates as Willard threw himself into the part, at times the character was possibly too exaggerated which made it hard to invest in Willard however his ‘dancing’ in ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’ was one of the highlights of the show! Laura Sillett (Rusty), Gracie Lai (Urleen) and Emma Fraser (Wendy-Jo) made up Ariel’s trio of girlfriends and when performing together really made the audience sit upright and take notice.
The casts strengths clearly lay in their dance and musicianship. Unfortunately on occasions their singing wasn’t as powerful as I would have hoped, especially for Rev. Moore, played by Reuven Gershon. In other numbers such as ‘Somebody’s Eyes’ I would have liked more power from the soloists.
Footloose is an enjoyable show but unfortunately due to the bizarre choice of actor-musicians and underwhelming singing in places it just fell short.
To find out more about the show why not visit the Footloose tour website.