Footloose

Stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford

Music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford.

Additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman
Empire Theatre, Sunderland, and touring

(2004)

Review by Peter Lathan

It all depends on what you want out of a musical.

If your ideal musical is full of energy, great ensemble dancing, music with a driving beat and plenty of lighting effects, then Footloose may very well be just your thing. However, if you want a strong storyline which has something more to say that just, "Hey! Have a good time!" and characters which have depth, then look elsewhere.

Footloose is built around a cliché: big-city boy comes to small town where dancing is banned, under the influence of minister; boy causes upset with his big-city ways; boy and minister's daughter fall in love; boy eventually gets through to minister; minister changes mind; dance is held. End.

The programme notes link the show to that first outpouring of teenage angst, Rebel Without a Cause, which is about as convincing as comparing the average Mills and Boon novel to Romeo and Juliet. There's no teenage angst here, no real teen rebellion. It touches on parent/teen relationships, but the magic of being able to have a dance solves all problems. Would that it were that simple!

No one could quarrel with the performances: Chris Jarvis as Ren and Rachael Wooding (Ariel) sang and danced - particularly danced - superbly, and Olivier Tobias as Rev. Shaw Moore, Ariel's father, and Marilyn Cutts (one of the original members of Fascinating Aida), as her mother, Vi, did all that could be expected of them, given the limitations of the writing (Rev Moore actually changes his mind about allowing the dance in the blackout between two scenes!), and the rest of the cast provide strong backup, with Taylor James (Willard) and Cassidy Janson (Rusty) being particularly impressive.

The dance routines are fast, energetic and impressive, and the songs, although, with one exception (Holding Out for a Hero), not particularly memorable, are well sung, but there was not that buzz, that excitement which we associate with a real audience-grabber of a musical.

"Footloose" tours to Wycombe, Nottingham, Belfast, Woking, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Bradford, Bristol, Darlington, Hull, Wimbledon, Liverpool, Jersey, Southend and Southampton until 7th August.