Theatre Review: Footloose has all the right moves once again

By Peter May

The infamous ear worm became part of the soundtrack to many of the MTV generation, making the film and the song instant hits.Featuring music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford this stage musical is based on the 1984 screen sensation starring Kevin Bacon that instantly made an international superstar out of him. Adapted for the stage once again after a run last year, Footloose returns to the stage as part of a strictly limited run of three weeks in London in the midst of a national tour.

Based on real life events, screenwriter Pitchford found the story of the middle-American town that banned dancing whilst scanning the New York Times. Ren and his mother are forced to move to Bomont to live with his uncle. They arrive to find a town that has banned dancing following a car accident that killed four teens. It’s a classic youth tale against the establishment drama that has been played out many times, and in the case of Footloose was strong enough to allow a remake of the film a few years back.

At the heart of this production Joshua Dowen stars as Ren McCormack and he sings and dances up a storm, delivering his performance with real gusto. Alongside him are the top billing stars Gareth Gates and Maureen Nolan who reprise their roles as Willard and Vi Moore. Footloose at its heart is an inter-generational drama that works because it not only has youthful energy but also is sympathetic to the adults in the drama.

Classic 80s hits including “Holding Out for a Hero”, “Almost Paradise”, “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” and of course the title track takes the world by storm once again, bursting with youthful spirit, dazzling dance and electrifying music.

The film’s soundtrack album went on to top album charts all over the world, eventually selling in excess of 17 million copies.

There’s no way to talk about every performance in this production, but special mention has to go to Gareth Gates who surprisingly isn’t the lead character. He plays the role of Willard, a slack jawed senior who delivers his lines with a voice reminiscent of Michael Jackson on helium. There are a few sketchy American accents throughout particularly by Maureen Nolan, at times it’s hard to tell she is supposed to be from the States.

Footloose had practically everyone in the stalls last night on their feet dancing at the end with pure joy! Sitting near me were parents, who as teens had seen the film introducing their kids to Footloose. Surely, that says it all.