The musical version of that iconic 80’s movie, Footloose, has stopped off in London during its UK Tour for a limited run at The Peacock Theatre. Filled with plenty of well-known tunes and a tendency not to take itself too seriously, this is the perfect way for audiences to lose their blues and kick off their Sunday shoes.
The plot will be familiar to anyone who has seen the movie that helped launch the career of Kevin Bacon. After being abandoned by his father; Ren McCormack, and his Mother, leave Chicago to live with his Aunt and Uncle in the small town of Bomont. Ren struggles to fit in to his new home, despite making friends with a dim-witted cowboy named Willard, and finding a love interest in Ariel.
In Bomont, dancing is illegal, but Ren just can’t stay still and so he takes on City Hall, and Ariel’s father Reverend Shaw Moore, to overturn the law so that the senior year can hold a dance. A fairly typical story of teenage love, angst and rebellion brought to life with a dynamic score from Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford.
In the lead role of Ren, Joshua Dowen is astonishing, delivering flawless dance moves and pitch perfect vocals. He captures the mixture of emotions his character is experiencing while maintaining the likability of Ren, in the final scenes where he confronts Shaw, he gives an impassioned speech which is the icing on the cake of his unflagging performance.Gareth Gates does well to pull off the slightly over-the-top Willard, but it’s when he sings that you really get to see him flourish. Gates and Dowen have a strong chemistry together which helps cement the unlikely friendship element of the storyline. Hannah Price, as Ariel, grasps the opportunity to portray a complex female lead. Her ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ is a particular highlight, along with her duet of ‘Almost Paradise’.
The cast play their own instruments live, giving the whole production an air of exhilaration, it really is a wonder to see the cast do so much. Choreography from Matt Cole is demanding, but stunningly executed, with the look and feel entirely in keeping with the era.
While that allusive convincing American accent proves a struggle for some of the cast, it’s an easy problem to overlook given the sheer energy being blasted from the stage, Footloose The Musical is the very definition of ‘feel-good’. Racky Plews has, yet again, directed a fantastic piece of musical theatre which permeates deep in to the audiences’ hearts, and along with a first class performance from Joshua Dowen, makes this guaranteed to help you cut loose, get on your feet and relish every moment.
Footloose is one of the best musicals I have ever seen but the night I went it was Gareth Gates night off but the stand in was absolutely brilliant he was a natural I hope to see him in his own parts.
Excellent and balanced review.we thought the ensemble deserved praise for their generous relationship on stage. Nice review though.