Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – until 17 June 2017
Footloose as an individual track is a tune I have been familiar with and known the words to since I can remember. Footloose as a show with a full range of foot-tapping musical numbers (which I could now listen to on repeat) I was not at all familiar with, however the incarnation of the show which is currently playing at Coventry Belgrade Theatre, is now rooted as a firm favourite. Not least because this version is an actor/musician production which is no mean feat.
Popular hits such as Let’s Hear It For The Boy, Holding Out For a Hero and Almost Paradise filled the auditorium and naturally, the title track had the place rocking. A personal highlight was Somebody’s Eyes which was a haunting yet catchy recurring theme and I have to give a mention to Learning To Be Silent as the harmonies were spectacular (kudos to Maureen Nolan, Lindsay Goodhand and Hannah Price).
The story is straight forward, teenage lad’s father does a runner, leaving him and his mum in the lurch. They move in with a kind uncle who lives in a small town with ridiculous rules. No dancing being one of the outlandish regulations. The tragic reason behind the town’s strict defences? A fatal car accident which resulted in the deaths of four youths, one of whom is significant to the plot. A Preacher is at the centre of the town’s inflexibility, and his wayward daughter is desperate to get out and rebel.
Joshua Dowen as the iconic character (and young new boy in town who wants to challenge the no dancing rule) Ren McCormack, blew Kevin Bacon’s performance out of the water. A more versatile performer at the helm I couldn’t have imagined, he completely made the role his own. Hannah Price as Ariel Moore (the Preacher’s trouble-seeking daughter) was a superb match for him and I was impressed with her seamless interchanges between instruments and the heart of the action. Gareth Gates was a revelation as Willard, for more reasons than one! I expected an amazing vocal performance from him, however as an actor he surpassed himself. His characterisation was nothing short of incredible. Maureen Nolan is another performer whom I had preconceived ideas about, Vi (Ariel’s mum) was a perfect fit for Nolan and her vocal ability remains incomparable. Reuven Gershon gave a strong and extremely notable performance as Rev Shaw Moore, his solo performance in act two was another highlight. I am also delighted to have been introduced to the extraordinary talent of Lindsay Goodhand. Not only did she take on three very different roles (Ethel McCormack, Betty and Coach Dunbar) and play each one brilliantly, but I was blown away with her singing voice. When she wasn’t acting, singing or roller skating(!) she had an instrument to play.
The set was multi-purpose and lent itself to the instruments that were an integral part of the scenery. The few scene changes required were seamless and there were a few hidden surprises too.
An audience collectively on their feet and boogeying as one to a finale mash-up, coupled with whoops, cheers and my own personal feeling that I could watch it again, again and again – is a winning combination. I needed more than one pair of eyes to watch this energetic and stellar cast giving one of the most joyous theatrical experiences. Don’t miss this show, it’s the ultimate feel-good musical and you won’t be able to stop smiling!