Popular 1980s film starring Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow turned into a musical for theatre audiences to revel in the classic songs, dance routines and fun-loving nostalgia. Footloose may have been made for the big screen in the 80s but it is perfect for the theatre in 2017.
Location: Buxton Opera House
Date: May 30th 2017
The Concept: Popular 1980s film starring Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow turned into a musical for theatre audiences to revel in the classic songs, dance routines and fun-loving nostalgia. Footloose may have been made for the big screen in the 80s but it is perfect for the theatre in 2017.
Ren McCormack is a slightly tortured teen after his father has left him and he has to move to Bomont with his mother. Ren must learn to fit into the small town that isn’t a fan of the new kid, has more rules then common sense and the rebellious Preacher’s daughter won’t give him a second glance.
What was fabulous about the musical is that a few new songs are added and some scenes shifted around a bit – just enough to make the musical fresh but heralding back to its predecessor. Having watched the film dozens of times in my youth, the harshest critic in me was surprisingly satiated by the changes.
I also went with Lady Metal who has never seen the film and she thoroughly enjoyed the musical too, so the show works for both ends of the spectrum for people who have seen the film and have an affinity for it and first timers.
The Successes: Far too many to mention but the sets were fabulously multi-purpose, the cast were enthusiastic and talented (even playing multiple instruments throughout the show) and the energy and light-heartedness of the story were completely on point.
The whole cast put in a full effort and beamed at the end with the uproarious applause and standing ovation. I can’t single out one shining star of the cast as they all worked incredibly hard to entertain so I can only think of one way to mention them and that is to mention all of them – Gareth Gates, Maureen Nolan, Joshua Dowen, Luke Dowling, Dominic Gee Burch, Connor Going, Emma Fraser, Reuven Gershon, Lindsay Goodhand, Gracie Lai, Grace Lancaster, Lawrence Libor, Alex Marshall, Hannah Price, Laura Stillett, Jamie Ross, Lauren Storer and Tomas Wolstenhome.
Joshua Dowen as Ren McCormack and Reuven Gershon had the greatest challenge in taking on the iconic leads from Kevin Bacon and John Lithgow. The cool emissions from Bacon are hard to match and the outright talent of Lithgow is a rare commodity. Dowen and Gershon put in good efforts and I would say I was more pleased with their performances then missing their previous counterparts – they filled the shoes sufficiently despite the long shadows the original actors cast in the roles.
I quite loved the duet between the two mothers and Willard’s song ‘Mamma Says’ were both new material and added much to the show.
Lastly, noteworthy to mention all the cast did a great job of accents.
The Setbacks: Had anyone asked me what I was looking forward to in the show my answer would have been a quick response of eagerly awaiting the tractor stand-off and how that epic scene was going to be re-created in the musical. To my great dismay, this was not in the production. I see the many, many challenges it would pose to get that scene into the show but also realize that with a bit of genius inspiration, War Horse managed to become a heartfelt theatre production without using a live horse. I felt a good opportunity was missed.
The other setback – despite enjoying Gareth Gates in the role of Willard – was that Gates played Willard slightly more of an imbecile then a lovable but slightly simple youth. Gates did a great job just a little over the top in his performance.
Final Thoughts: The finale was outstanding and I loved the detail of the confetti and metallic decorations – just like the end of the film. An excellent cast and an excellent production. I’d go see this show again in a heartbeat.
Playing at the Buxton Opera House from May 30th – June 3rd
Then check out www.footloose-musical.com for other tour dates