Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Footloose – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Music: Tom Snow
Book/Lyrics: Dean Pitchford
Addition Music: Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, Jim Steinman
Director/Choreographer: Karen Bruce
Reviewer: John Roberts

From the onset Footloose starts you are propelled into a high octane, sexually charged, creatively choreographed smash hit musical, one that is guaranteed to keep you tapping your feet and standing in outright jubilation at the end.

Based on the 1980s film starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Kevin Bacon, which in itself is based on the true story of Elmore City in Oklahoma that had banned dancing for over 90 years – however the film relocates the action to Belmont a small minded town that is run by the Reverend Shaw, who is so tied down by the loss of his son in a tragic car accident that he fails to see that his actions within the town are stifling individuality and expression much to the detriment of the young people within the community. It is only when the McCormack’s move to the town and young Ren starts to questions the Parish Councils actions do things slowly but surely start to change.

Now let’s get to the point, the book of this musical is wafer thin, so thin perhaps that it is almost non-existent, but what the show lacks in script it more than makes up for it in all other departments.

Karen Bruce directs and choreographs a sharp and slick production that moves with such pace and speed, it leaves you breathless just watching it – her choreography is exuberant, it oozes sexual tension and combines all the elements of traditional line dancing with the powerhouse dance style of Modern Jazz, combine this with some excellent comedic moments and there really is something for everyone in this well thought out production.

Morgan Larges’ set design is sleek and although may look sparse compared to current west end musicals – still adds impact, whether that be in the garage forecourt or the burger joint, the church or the railway lines.

Headlining the current cast is local actor Stephen Pinder, best known for his role in Liverpool soap Brookside as Reverend Shaw. Pinder has always been reliable in providing a string stage presence and it came as a pleasant surprise to find he is also a reasonable warm and strong singer able to hold his own amongst a strong triple threat cast. In the role of rebel youth and violent boyfriend Chuck Cranston is ex Busted member and King of the Jungle Matt Willis – it has to be said though that despite Willis clearly giving everything he really is the weakest member of the cast – his menace translates on stage as camp and mincing and his acting leaves little to be desired, however he does come into his own during his solo song.

Max Milner as Ren McCormack is instantly likable, and gives a powerhouse performance, even though it was clear from his vocals on press night that he was suffering from the effects of a cold. Lorna Want as love interest Ariel Moore makes for a wonderful modern ingénue and it is clear to see why any boy in the town would fall head over heels for her.

Excellent support is given from Giovanni Spano as the small-town simpleton with a big heart Willard and Jodie Jacobs (Rusty) proves yet again that she has lungs of steel and is worthy of a leading role in any musical. This is a true ensemble production, every cast member pushing themselves to the max through every dance and song.

An energetic fun filled evening that comes highly recommended.

Runs until Sat 12th March
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