Gareth Gates’s understudy Luke Thornton steps up to the plate and steals the show as foolishly dim Willard in this dynamic production of Footloose based on the 1980s cult film.
Ren McCormick, a Chicago city boy struggles to settle into the conformed town of Bomont, where the freedom is limited and dancing is strictly prohibited. Due to a tragic accident of the past, Reverend Moore created rules to keep the kids under control, however they still find a way to dance, particularly his own daughter Ariel Moore.
The production uses actor-musos which works well, after reviewing a more lacklustre performance earlier on the tour, I was impressed by the show’s progression. The energy is striking and has the power and vitality the musical requires. The actors playing instruments gives it more of a rock and roll vibe and I was impressed by their remarkable ability to dance yet still hold enough breath to play wind instruments, they manage to effortlessly intertwine playing instruments into their characterisation and movement.
Luke Thornton shines as dopey Willard, his awkward gait and comedy timing is excellent. His inability to convey his feelings to Rusty as he stumbles around the stage had the audience in stitches, during Rusty’s number Lets Hear It For The Boy, Willard is learning to dance and it is truly hilarious. Thornton masters slapstick comedy flawlessly.
Rebellious preacher’s daughter Ariel Moore played by Hannah Price gives a vocally outstanding performance, she is a highly convincing actress who provides a potent and charged performance. She brings vocal strength to the production and her rendition of Holding Out For A Hero is electric.
Luke Baker gives a passionate performance as Ren McCormick, his anger and frustration is portrayed through the intensity of his slick movement. Similarly Joanna Sawyer, who plays Rusty, gives a sublime performance. Completely infatuated by Willard, Sawyer’s characterisation is fiery and her energy is infectious in her sterling solo number Lets Hear It For The Boy.
Nigel Lister plays concerned priest and strict father of Ariel, Reverend Moore. His interpretation of the dominant father is formidable, he gives a moving performance during the second-act scene where Ren opens up to him and attempts to convince him to demolish the law against dancing. Maureen Nolan plays Ariel’s kind-hearted mother Vi, she beautifully performs the touching number Learning To Be Silent with Nicky Swift who plays Ren’s mother Ethel and Hannah Price.
Harmonising trio Natasha Brown, Miracle Chance along with Joanna Sawyer create smooth transitions between scenes. Their number Somebody’s Eyes is a musical highlight of the production, with sharp vocals and tight harmonies, it is a display of their superb diversity as actor musicians.
Choreographer Matthew Cole has created gutsy, high-powered choreography that is precise yet it still manages to maintain a sense of freedom and fluidity in the movement. The finale is exuberant and bursting with energy and charisma, the feel-good attitude had the whole audience up on their feet dancing.
Footloose is an animated, radiant and utterly cheesy production. It is a musical erupting with 80s classics, and it’s inevitable you’ll be dancing in your seat throughout.
Footloose is on at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until Saturday the 9th of July and tickets can be found here.