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Review: Footloose The Musical, The Ipswich Regent, to October 8

PUBLISHED: 10:40 04 October 2016

Joanna Sawyer as Rusty and Gareth Gates as Willard in Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt Martin

Joanna Sawyer as Rusty and Gareth Gates as Willard in Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt Martin

Archant

Everybody cut loose and kick off your Sunday shoes. Footloose has jumped back into the limelight with a musical tour that has had Ipswich foot-tapping and bottom-wiggling in this re-mastered mixed-bag stage show.

Hannah Price as Ariel Moore in Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt MartinHannah Price as Ariel Moore in Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt Martin

Like the hit film starring Kevin Bacon, this oozes youth, romance and revolution. It’s produced by the award-winning Sell A Door Theatre Company, which is behind the likes of stage shows Avenue Q - which may explain some of the rudeness - and American Idiot.

It was a pick ‘n’ mix of greatness and despondency that may leave some feeling they paid for a budget version of Grease merged with a corny Elvis movie that still somehow left you feeling entertained.

In case you missed the 1980s entirely, Footloose is the story of city boy Ren who thinks life is well and truly over when he is forced to move from Chicago to Bomont, a small and quaint little town in the deepest darkest depths of the US where everybody knows everything about everyone else’s business.

What’s worse than taking the boy out of the city? Well, it’s a town that bans dancing, that’s what.

Scott Haining as Bickie and the cast of Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt MartinScott Haining as Bickie and the cast of Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt Martin

In a predictable cheesy 1980s twist of fate it’s not long before Ren and his - let’s face it, easily won over - gang can’t resist breaking the rules and telling others to follow suit.

Gareth Gates has the majority of publicity for this show, but he doesn’t play the lead Ren. He’s Ren’s friend and sidekick Willard.

You’d be forgiven for initially struggling to know whether to laugh at or with him. Of course there’s no question of his singing ability, which was quite flawless if not a little soft for this rock ‘n’ roll musical.

After his ragingly hilarious part in I Need A Hero, whether intentional or not the character wasn’t to be taken too seriously in his panto-esque style.

Luke Baker as Ren and the cast of Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt MartinLuke Baker as Ren and the cast of Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt Martin

Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore, loving preacher’s wife and a darn-tooting nice lady, had a questionable American accent, which caused much distraction. My did she make up for it with that singing voice, echoing her incredible performances from her Blood Brothers days.

For a show that’s about dancing, that part did leave a lot to be desired. As musical’s go the vocal talents of this cast certainly make up for it.

It never fails to impress when actors cannot only sing - extraordinarily so - and dance, okay-ish; but play many of the musical instruments themselves. For that, their not so perfect dance skills might be forgiven.

Deniece Williams’ classic Let’s Hear it for the Boy features, but it was more a case of let’s hear it for the girl. Or in this show, girls.

Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore in Footloose. Photo: Matt MartinMaureen Nolan as Vi Moore in Footloose. Photo: Matt Martin

Unlike the film the musical could be interpreted as a representation of a strong feminist movement, empowering suppressed women to take a stand against belittlement.

And justifiably so. Those female vocals stole it. Hannah Price (Ariel) and Joanna Sawyer (Rusty) left many jaw-dropped with phenomenal belters that would put some X Factor finalists to shame.

There’s a lot of gyrating and a couple of unnecessary sexual references that would make Mary Whitehouse turn in her grave, so think twice before putting yourself in the uneasy position of explaining to your under 11-year-old what some of the hand gestures mean.

Overall audiences won’t be disappointed in this time trip, with classic songs including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise and of course Kenny Loggins’ infectious title song, Footloose.

The cast of Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt MartinThe cast of Footloose The Musical. Photo: Matt Martin

Read entertainment writer Wayne Savage’s interview with Gates and Nolan here.

Mira Shareif

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