Footloose the Musical
Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie
Selladoor Worldwide, Runaway Entertainment and Jason Haigh Ellery
The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth
High-kicking off its UK tour, a high octane Footloose is packed full of cheesy lines, an energetic cast, plenty of talent and much to entertain.
The real story of a high school prom breaking a centuries-old dancing drought wrought by an archaic law prompted the 1984 blockbuster starring Kevin Bacon and 15 years later the musical adapted by Dean Pitchford from his own screenplay.
Pitchford’s concept is that of Chicago transplant shock-haired Ren (Jesus Christ Superstar’s Joshua Hawkins) landing in remote small town Bomont where eyes are watching, fingers are pointing and the Rev Shaw Moore (the ubiquitous Darren Day) rules the roost.
Suffering the insufferable straight-laced Uncle Wes (Ben Barrow), a chocolate brown bedroom carpet, exclusion and prejudice, Ren falls for the red hotpants-wearing and cowboy-booted Ariel (a sterling turn from newly graduated Lucy Munden)—who just so happens to be the Rev’s tearaway daughter with her sights set on escape—and determines to bring fun back to a town mourning the death five years previously of a handful of its young people. With the tragedy happening on their alcohol and cannabis-fuelled drive home from a dance, the town council imposed its ban. So no dancing and no "music of easy sensuality or the endless chant of pornography".
The charismatic Jake Quickenden (‘Ineffable’, Dancing on Ice 2018 winner) is cowboy hick Willard raised on mother’s homilies and whose gold shorts and muscleman moves are a showstopper in a joie de vivre rendition of "Holding Out For A Hero".
Designer Sara Perks (American Idiot, Spamalot) has created an industrial set with ironwork mobile gantries and staircase offset by bubble gum pink and powder blue cut-off car boots, chintzy vicarage lounge and clever changing rooms-lockers as Tom Snow’s score fizzes with the eponymous "Footloose", "Mama Says (You Can’t Back Down)" and "Let’s Hear It For The Boys" strident while Munden and Hawkins’s bridge top duet "Almost Paradise" is sweet and Day’s "Heaven Help Me" mellifluous.
Musical director / bass Nathan Dawe and Bob Carr (who plays drums on the overhead gantry) are joined by barely-glimpsed keyboard players and a versatile company who play live with a great array guitars and wind instruments—even during Olivier Award nominee Matt Cole’s hoofing routines. Geri Allen (Wind In The Willows, Robin Hood) is a stalwart of the wind instruments and also provides tremendous comedy as Betty and Coach alongside words of wisdom and support as Ethel.
Amongst a very capable company, debutante Oonagh Cox is ditzy as Rusty, Jess Barker (Keep the Home Fires Burning, Son of A Preacher Man) sassy as Wendy-Jo and Holly Ashton (Mamma Mia! International tour) measured as long-suffering Vi.
Frothy, frivolous and feel-good, a popular antidote to the January blues.
Reviewer: Karen Bussell