Based on the 1980s cult film starring Kevin Bacon and Directed by Racky Plews, Footloose the musical sees city kid Ren McCormack (tonight played by understudy Thomas Cotran) struggle to fit into life in backwater Bomont, a deeply religious town where everyone knows your business and dancing is against the law. Desperate to inject some life back into the sleepy town, Ren takes on the local Reverend who is decision maker and leader of the community who just so happens to have a beautiful daughter Ariel, (Hannah Price) who also happens to have a not so beautiful tough guy boyfriend who will happily cause Ren a few problems along the way.
Gareth Gates surprisingly doesn’t play the lead but instead played the loveable nice but dim Willard, who befriends Ren when everyone else steers clear. There is no doubt about it that Manchester loves Gareth Gates, the whooping and cheering begins the minute he appears on stage, the praise is well deserved, his performance is a highlight, he shows an impressive ability with slapstick humour and has the audience in the palm of his hand.
Hannah Price is excellent in the role Ariel, switching from sweet and innocent Preachers daughter to rebellious teenager desperate to escape the monotony of life in a small town and all the angst that brings. Her vocals are beautiful and her voice strong. Unfortunately tonight we didn’t get to see Luke Baker as Ren and understudy Cotran stepped into what is no doubt a very daunting role.
The ensemble cast also played all of the music, this in parts worked well and in other parts didn’t quite hit the mark, while the sounding of a trumpet blown by the Chairperson may well settle down a noisy town council meeting I think there were parts where the instruments should have been out of sight.
Special mention goes to Joanna Sawyer who played Rusty, best friend of Ariel and girlfriend of Willard, Sawyer gave a great performance and for me stood out as one to watch.
The classic songs you’d expect to hear are all in there, Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and of course the ever popular title track, Footloose. While there are some great highlights to the show for me it was just missing that umph that makes for a standout show, although I enjoyed it I wanted a little bit more, perhaps having the cast play all the instruments meant there weren’t the real show stopping dance performances I’d hoped for, I think perhaps with one or two tweaks and the addition of some big bold dance numbers Footloose could go from a fun show to a fabulous one.
Showing at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 19th March