Image courtesy of Matt Martin.
The Festival Theatre
Based on the true story of Elmore City, Oklahoma (in which there had been a public dancing ban for more than 90 years), and a big-screen hit showcasing the famous rain choreography performed by Francis Bacon, Footloose has now become a West End hit and is currently on a UK tour. Produced by Sell-A-Door Theatre Company – who pride themselves in making the theatre more accessible to the younger generations – this story has become something for people of all ages to watch, enjoy and dance to.
It must first be pointed out just how talented the entire cast of Footloose are. Every single one of them was a singer, actor, dancer and musician; instead of having one set band to play a backing track for the singers, the cast themselves were the band, with many of them performing main roles and playing at least two instruments. While this occasionally made a bit of a mess of the stage and distracted from the singers, it was refreshing to see something so different which showed off each performer’s multiple talents.
The lead actor, Luke Baker, who played Ren, pays homage to Kevin Bacon’s iconic on-screen depiction. These are sizable shoes to fill, but Baker rose to the challenge wonderfully. One member who particularly impressed was Hannah Price, whose portrayal of Ariel was both commendable and touching. Not only did she act, sing and dance with incredible skill, she also played the keyboard, trumpet and clarinet beautifully. Ariel was a true stand-out character in the show, owing to her unbreakable rebellious nature and her unresolved ‘daddy issues’. It was certainly a difficult role to convey with conviction, but Price took it in her stride.
Playing the loveable Willard was none other than Gareth Gates. His performance as Willard was a glorious demonstration of how some actors can convey a fully-realised person on-stage, and capture the hearts of the audience in doing so. Moreover, Joanna Sawyer’s performance as Rusty – Willard’s almost-girlfriend – was adorable, sweet and incredibly surprising. As a rather low-key character for the majority of the show, Sawyer’s hearty and stunning performance of ‘Let’s Hear It for the Boy’ really brought Rusty to the forefront of the audience’s attention. Unfortunately, it has to be said that the performance began with a worryingly wooden introduction but thankfully the standard consistently improved throughout the first act. The overall performance was a huge success and had the audience dancing and laughing throughout.
Footloose is essential viewing for enthusiasts of perfectly professional dance routines with an 80s twist. They will be on stage in Glasgow and Aberdeen in June.