Footloose is the smash-hit rock ‘n’ roll musical based on the 1984 film. A firm theatergoer’s favourite, with toe-tapping tunes, youthful rebellion and a hint of romance this musical has all the ingredients to make any audience want to cut loose…
When he and his mother pack up from Chicago and head to small-town Bomont, Ren thinks his life couldn’t get any worse. In a small religious town that doesn’t allow dancing Ren finds that he can’t stand still, and his classmates soon join him on his en-devour to reinstate the town to its former dance-filled glory.
This is Footloose, but with a truly unexpected and welcome twist – all the music is played live right in front of your eyes by the actors themselves. Director Racky Plews has had his work cut out for him in making the well-known stage show into an actor-musician piece. With all the dancing and high-energy movement you’d think the instruments would take away from the performance, but they add a new, exciting dynamic.
The sheer talent of the cast in their ability to pull off the music to a professional theatre-band standard, whilst acting, singing and dancing was a real highlight of the show. Considering the music is played by the cast on stage, this was possibly the best sounding Footloose that I’ve heard.
Hannah Price makes her professional debut in Footloose as the preacher’s rebellious daughter Ariel, a role that she plays exceptionally well. She pulled off the kind yet troubled girl caught up with the wrong guy and looking for a way out of her rural backwater town. The on stage chemistry between her and Ren, played by Luke Baker, was undeniably strong and the two made a perfect pair, in particular in their duet Almost Paradise. Luke Baker draws out of the role both the comedic and tender moments and really gets to show off his dancing skills in almost mixed-martial arts style dance break at the end of act one.
The main comedy role came from Willard played by Lee Brennan, a former member of 90’s boy band 911. Whilst over-the-top at times, Brennan provided a comedic character that the audiences hearts warmed to straight away. He stole the show during the girls’ number Holding Out For A Hero (we won’t ruin the surprise) and in his one number of the show Mama Says in act two which is hilarious in its words and in its choreography – by Matthew Cole.
The company, too, held the show together and provided moments of comedic bliss; in particular Scott Haining who played various different roles include Bickle and Cowboy Bob. The ability of every company member to play their instruments with distinction whilst performing demanding choreography and movement is outstanding, especially Lauren Storer who at one point played the saxophone whilst riding around on roller-blades!
The set – designed by Sara Perks – much like the whole show was different to what avid-footloose fans might be used to, but worked brilliantly creating a new edgy style unlike some full-scale musical productions. With one center piece that revolves to create multiple places, a drum kit (and drummer) on a raised platform and other pieces of the set moved by the cast themselves the staging is innovative and suits the style of the production well.
It may have been just this performance, but I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed in some of the big moments. Parts of the show that should have left your spine tingling got close, but just didn’t manage to take the audience over the edge. The cast as a whole are excellent but there were times when numbers felt like they still had a lot to give. When that cast is at 100% – I am sure this show will blow you away.
Sell A Door Theatre Company’s Footloose is a cutting-edge take on a well established and well loved musical. The use of the actor-musician alongside new inventive styles of directing and staging work brilliantly in shaking up the show and breathing new life into it. Their edgy style and forward thinking really has put this company on the map and it is more than worth going to see their productions.
Footloose continues it’s UK tour at the Liverpool Empire this week before continuing around the UK. Buy tickets at www.atgtickets.com/liverpool
Written by Kath Walton and Rob Stanway