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Footloose The Musical at Theatre Royal Brighton

Last night’s predominantly female audience at the Theatre Royal clearly enjoyed Footloose, the 1998 musical, based on the original 1984 movie with music by Tom Snow (and others) and book and lyrics mostly by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie.

Footloose The Musical
Footloose The Musical Cast

The simple plot concerns Ren McCormack, who moves with his parents from Chicago to mid-west small-town Bomont, where he discovers that rock music and dancing have been banned, and also falls in love with Rusty, who loves dancing. The show ran on Broadway for 709 performances, in London’s West End for six months, as well as spawning three UK touring productions, the present one being directed by Racky Plews and starting in Zurich in January 2022.

Willard, Ren’s not-able-to-dance friend, is sung and danced (!) by Jake Quickenden. He is ideally cast in this role, even if he does not now look like a teenager at school, having oodles of charm and charisma without apparently doing anything! He has the best song in the show ‘Mama Says’, one of the few non-rock numbers, and, in the end, learns to dance and therefore captivate Rusty(Oonagh Cox), who puts great energy into her role, revealing a strong mezzo in ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’.

Ren himself is amusingly played by Joshua Hawkins. His song ‘I can’t stand still’ is one of the best known in the show and gets the full treatment from the ensemble cast. One can see why the preacher’s daughter, Ariel (Lucy Munden) would fall for him! She looks stereotypically sweet and innocent, as is the intention! Both are given ample opportunity to sing, and she is able to demonstrate her pianistic skills at times in a production where most of the cast accompany each other on a variety of guitars and woodwind instruments, especially saxophones.

Rev Moore is played by Darren Day. His performance is a masterclass in how to put over a song – he caresses every moment of ‘Heaven Help Me’. Even if he doesn’t quite convince as a priest, he charms his way through the show by just being a ‘gentle’ presence. His wife, Vi, is very believably portrayed by Holly Ashton, who is one of the few to create a fully rounded character. She also reveals a gorgeous singing voice in ‘Can You Find it In Your Heart’, one of the surprisingly lesser-known songs.

The remainder of the sixteen strong cast impress, whether it is with their, singing, dancing, playing instruments, acting secondary roles, or just their sheer energy and enthusiasm. In fact, they raise the level of the whole show, especially in some of the dialogue scenes which are inclined to flag: most of the audience seem to know the plot so why bother, is what the production often seems to say!

Sara Perks’ sets seems to constrict the amount of space often needed for dancing by cluttering the acting area with enormous sofas, and fail to give the feel of America’s ‘Mid West’ at all.

The onstage band, such as it is, just consists of piano (Nathan Dawe) and drum kit, but there were severe problems with the sound balance (design Chris Whybrow) meaning that in the first half instrumentalists frequently overwhelmed the singers, who also had to contend with radio mikes that faded in and out during dialogue.

There were also scenic problems with a drop cloth hitting two cast members and lighting (Chris Davey) which left the downstage in total darkness for much of the time, but succeeded in lighting the house tabs’ border with two enormous spots! Doubtless, these problems will be sorted during the long tour which takes in many other ATG theatres, ending up at New Wimbledon Theatre in August.

This show needs little recommendation from me – as I said at the top of this review, the audience loved it!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Following two critically acclaimed tours and a West End run, Footloose is back and better than ever with the incredible Jake Quickenden (Dancing on Ice Winner, Hollyoaks, Dreamboys, Hair, Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure) as loveable cowboy Willard and the legendary Darren Day (TV personality and star of numerous West End and National tours including Mame, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Grease and Summer Holiday).

Lucy Munden joins the cast as Ariel alongside Oonagh Cox as Rusty.

Based on the 1980s screen sensation which took the world by storm, Footloose sizzles with spirit, fun and the best in UK musical talent. With cutting edge modern choreography, you’ll enjoy classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and of course the unforgettable title track Footloose.

Footloose is at Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday 21st February, 2022 to Saturday 26th February, 2022.

View all shows booking now at Theatre Royal Brighton.

LISTINGS

Performance times and matinee days may vary – ticket prices may vary – please check website for details

21– 26 FEB
Brighton Theatre Royal
0333 009 6690

28 FEB – 05 MAR
Manchester Opera House
0333 009 6690

14– 19 MAR – Peterborough New Theatre
www.newtheatre-peterborough.com 01733 852992

21 – 26 MAR
Stoke Regent Theatre
0333 009 6690

28 MAR – 02 APR – York Theatre Royal
www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk 01904 623568

04 – 09 APR – Cheltenham Everyman Theatre
www.everymantheatre.org.uk 01242 572573

11 – 16 APR – Blackpool Opera House
www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk 0844 856 1111

18 – 23 APR
Birmingham Alexandra
0333 009 6690

25 – 30 APR – Doncaster Cast
www.castindoncaster.com 01302 303959

02 – 07 MAY – Southampton Mayflower
www.mayflower.org.uk 02380 711811

09 – 14 MAY
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
0333 009 6690

16 – 21 MAY – Malvern Festival Theatre
www.malvern-theatres.co.uk 01684 892277

23 – 28 MAY – Llandudno Venue Cymru
www.venuecmryu.co.uk 01492 872000

30 MAY – 04 JUN – Cardiff New Theatre
www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk – 07925 659065

06 – 11 JUN
Sunderland Empire
0333 009 6690

13 – 18 JUN
Woking New Victoria
0333 009 6690

20 – 25 JUN Bradford Alhambra
www.bradford-theatres.co.uk 01274 432000

28 JUN – 02 JUL
Oxford New Theatre
0333 009 6690

04 – 09 JUL – Wolverhampton Grand
www.grandtheatre.co.uk 01902 429212

11 – 16 JUL – Queen’s Theatre Barnstaple
www.queenstheratre-barnstaple.com 01271 316523

18 – 23 JUL
Edinburgh Playhouse
0333 009 6690

25 – 30 JUL – His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen
www.aberdeenperformingarts.com *

01 – 06 AUG
Glasgow Kings Theatre
0333 009 6690 *

15 – 20 AUG
Wimbledon New Theatre
0333 009 6690 *

* Please note Jake Quickenden will not be performing at these venues – star casting to be announced

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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