Footloose (UK Tour): Peacock Theatre, London
Reviewed 17th September 2017.
This legendary 80’s musical has always been a hit with toe-tapping hits such as ‘Footloose‘, ‘Holding Out For a Hero‘ and ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boy‘. The latest version of the 80’s classic which follows main character Ren McCormack as he moves to a new town, Bomont, where music and dancing is banned has had lots of changes from previous incarnations so makes for interesting viewing.
The main difference is that in this production the actors play the musical instruments on stage throughout the show. As such there is no band, except a drum player, all of the music is played by the multi-talented cast. I was unsure about this to begin with, as I felt it detracted somewhat from the characters and staging of the show. But I soon got used to the appearance of guitars, saxophones, flutes and clarinets and they became invisible. The instruments however, are not vital or even a part of the storyline so it is an interesting concept. One that I am not sure truly works for this style of show.
The cast were all talented and committed to their roles but for me the two main characters Ren, played by Joshua Dowen, and Ariel, played by Hannah Price, were superb. Both actors had fantastic singing voices and really connected with the characters. The emotions displayed felt real and the characters were relatable. In addition, the onstage chemistry between them was evident and developed throughout the show, particularly during the second act. Joshua Dowen’s dancing skills were energetic and precise. The choreography by Matt Cole played homage to the 80’s style and the original film starring Kevin Bacon but did not feel particularly inventive or innovative.
Another actor I was particularly drawn to was Laura Sillett, who played Rusty. She was very charismatic and energetic throughout the performance. In fact the trio of girls including Gracie Lai and Emma Fraser played a vital part in the show, often offsetting the tension and adding humour. They were all clearly talented and their performance of ‘Somebody’s Eyes‘ was a highlight of the show.
It was an enjoyable show but not without it’s faults. For me, some of the castings were slightly odd. Whilst Reuven Gershon’s (Rev Shaw) acting was very good and believable unfortunately his song ‘Heaven Help Me‘ lacked the conviction and passion needed. Gareth Gates was the ‘celeb’ appeal for this show and he did act the part of Willard as presumably he was directed to. Personally however I did not like this version of Willard. The character not feel believable and often the jokes fell flat.
The use of a simple set with a revolving centre piece creating different locations seemed to work well and the different heights to create other spaces was good, allowing the audience to clearly see the actors. The only downside to the set was the limited floor space it left. With increased floor space the choreography could have been slightly more impressive and had larger group numbers. Lighting was effective and generally the sound was good, albeit there were a few technical hitches with microphones cutting out.
Overall the show was a fun-filled night out. Perfect for fans of the film and 80’s music. It is a good family show and I’d imagine lots of hen-parties will enjoy the toned Gareth Gates stripping to his shorts. It was toe-tapping and got the audience standing by the end. I don’t think this is a must see for die-hard musical theatre fans, neither is it a rush out to get return tickets kind of show. However it is fun, catchy and an enjoyable evening out at the theatre.
Footloose is playing at the Peacock Theatre, London until 30th September and then continuing on it’s UK tour. For tickets visit: http://footloose-musical.com
Photo credit: Matt Martin