Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Footloose

Screenplay by Dean Pitchford, stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman
GSA
Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford

Footloose

The weather might not have warmed up yet, but for a hot night out just watch the GSA graduate students strut their stuff in Footloose.

At this time of year, out they come, ready to astound the world with their talent and versatility. Well they certainly astound me. They have just completed a drama course, not dancing, so why choose a show with practically non-stop song and dance numbers? No Worries. These guys can cope—well not just cope—they are incredible, and their energy leaves me breathless and envious.

That is not to say that they have the expertise of dancers who have trained for years. Some of their lifts were not quite achieved with slick precision, but overall they have taken it on board as if born to dance, and they perform Gary Lloyd's complicated and athletic choreography with a joyous abandon which belies many strenous hours of rehearsal to not only get their own performance up to near perfection but to synchronise all their moves precisely with the others.

Lloyd directs a show so fast moving there is hardly time to breathe between scenes,and the scenery is just as busy with Diego Pitarch's cleverly inventive set constantly on the move, up down, in and out, with two versatile towers which switch around to form some amazingly diverse venues. The cast also deals with the scene shifting with such amazing speed and efficiency that it is hardly noticeable.

The show is not completely dance orientated, however. There is a story which is reputedly based on a true one. City boy from Chicago, who loves to dance, comes to live in small town in the Deep South where a car accident 21 years ago killed four youngsters. They were returning from a night out at a dance and there was evidence of alcohol and drugs, so the townspeople (led by the preacher and the school head) banned all dancing. It seems to me there's something wrong with their logic, but that's the way the story goes.

Helped by the preacher's daughter Ariel (Rosie Needham), Chicago boy Ren (Alex Jordan-Mills) persuades the town that there are many references in the Bible to dancing and the town's youngsters are once again allowed to have their fun and release some pent up frustration and energy.

These two are the lynchpins of the story with Needham giving a very accurate interpretation of a frustrated teenager rebelling against her father and against the rules, and not as innocent as her father would like—"The Girl Gets Around"—while Jordan-Mills is perfectly cast as a boy resentful and upset that his father has left him and his mother and is appalled to find himself in such a restrictive envinronment. This boy is undeniably a dancer—"I Can't Stand Still"—and with tremendous stamina and athleticism.

Cellen Chugg Jones plays the Rev Moore with sympathy and gives a moving rendition of "Heaven Help Me", a father trying to bring up his daughter the best way he can and, by complete contrast, there is a delightfully comic performance from Sam Robinson as Willard, the shy and simple cowhand who gains tremendously in confidence as soon as he learns to dance.

Sound and lighting play a large part in the production (Andrew Johnson and Richard G Jones) as, of course does the six-piece band, which brings the music up to tempo with a blast, all really letting rip in the "Burger Blast" scene with "Holding out for a Hero", the show climaxing with the eponymous title track "Footloose", the cast giving their all and the audience all on their feet and joining in.

A great way to forget the cold summer.

Reviewer: Sheila Connor