‘Footloose – The Musical’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by February 18, 2016

‘Footloose – The Musical’ was written in 1983 by Dean Pitchford, and is based on true events; however, the music that was composed by Tom Snow, Jim Steinman, Kenny Loggins, Dean Pitchford and Deborah Lurie was not added until 1998.

The LP soundtrack of the 1984 film sold 15 million copies. Two of the songs being nominated for Oscars.

This bright and effervescent musical is being performed by the Darlington Theatre Players at Marloo Theatre, Marloo Road, Greenmount each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening at 8.00, with matinees on Sundays at 2.00 pm until Saturday 12th March.

 

There were no sets as such, but there were some very impressive structures (George Boyd designer) which were beautifully built and perfectly conveyed the atmosphere of the locality. Some were massive, such as the sport’s stadium, terrace seating – which moved around in total silence. Other features include the church entrance, a soda bar and barbeque eatery. The only ‘standard set’ is the minister’s home (props Raelene Cover). There were about two dozen involved in the construction, with a further dozen as stage crew.

The production was managed by Gail Palmer, and stage-managed by Rob Warner and David Bain – most impressive.

 

       Teenage Ren (Liam Borbas) and his Mum, Ethel (Clare Fazackerley), move from Chicago to the Mid-West, woop woop town of Bomont, to live with Ren’s Aunt Lulu (Jacqui Warner) and Uncle Wes (Alan Markham).

      At Ren’s new school is Ariel (Brittany Isaia), daughter of the puritanical minister, Reverend Moore (John Taylor) and his wife, Vi (Kylie Isaia). Ariel has an obnoxious boyfriend, Chuck Cranston (Blake Prosser), who works at the local garage with three wasters, Travis (Ethan Acott), Lyle (Owen Davis) and Rhett (Alistair Ball). Ariel’s school friends, Wendy-Jo (Suzy June Wakeling), Rusty (Teah Dunning) and Urleen (Charlize Gosnell) try to warn her about Chuck but Ariel will not listen.

       Ren finds himself being outcast by the school Principal (Michele Acott) for being too outspoken. Even local cop (David Seaman) gives him a ticket. The sports coach, Mr Dunbar (Luke Miller) and his wife, Eleanor (Sarah Palmer), treat Ren shabbily because they are Bridge friends of the Rev. Shaw.

       Whilst in Betty’s (Rachel Vonk) ‘Blast’ soda café, shy Willard (Chris Ball) explains the no pop music and dancing policy of the town council. As the trio sing (Georgia Kinnane, Nicola Kinnane and Belinda Beatty) Ren musters his classmates and unsuccessfully demands a senior prom, and so with a group of friends drive 100 miles to an untamed night of liberty at the Bar BQ Club. The Club is a wild place, where Bob (Simon Dreyer) and the cowgirls (Gemma Addison and Eden Sambridge) boot scoot, as the singers (Darin Aqila, Charlie Darlington) chant.

      Can Ren win Ariel’s heart? With the help of friends, Jeter (Billy Darlington) and Garvin (Matt Manning), can anything be done win over Reverend Moore’s mind block?

 

Other performers include: Steph Shaw, Aaliyah Thompson, Asha Vivian, Brooklyn Kamer, Rebecca Mattison, ​​Channing Whitworth, Laura Goodlet, Nieve Hope, Caitlyn Hughes, Sophie Todd, Jordan Tabb, Emilie Tiivel, Tania Morrow, Clare Smale, Caitlin Walker and Luke Heath.

 

Suzanne Kosowitz, the musical director, has done an outstanding job. The music from her seven-piece band was well-balanced and complemented the singing, rather than have the poor singers fighting to be heard (as so often happens). The band members were Tabitha Broughton (woodwind), Thomas Felton (Electric bass), Cameron Hayes and Harrison Love (Guitar), Jo Keenan and Daniel Slee (Keyboard) with Richard Pooley (Drums).

With a cast of ‘thousands’, each wearing around four intricate and stylish costumes each, wardrobe mistress Marjorie De Caux wisely enlisted the help of Shelly Miller, Rachel Vonk and Sophie Todd. The result was stunning, plenty of colour and quality, all based in that era three decades ago.

The choreography, thanks to Arianah Isaia skills, was inventive and fresh. With such a huge cast to handle, there is inevitably a couple of actors out of sync, however, this cast – right up to the final curtain – were smiling, fully charged and performing quite complex movements. Even the singers had intricate arm and hand movements. The dancing ranged from romantic waltz, boot scooting, soft shoe to tap dancing.

The sound, designed by Chris Hewitt, Greg Rusha and Dylan Borbeau, was brilliant. The train sound effects (Anita Bound, Lesley Broughton) amazing. The slight echo used on the voices gave them depth, and the ‘dreaded’ headsets actually worked perfectly.

Joy Miles and Shelly Miller’s pulsing light design was in sync with the music, with the choice of colours and brightness levels spot-on. Well done Lesley Broughton, Julie Hickling and Lachie Kessey.

The directors, Joe Isaia and his assistant Michele Acott, had to oversee dozens of youngsters and complicated teching, before they even got to the singing and dancing. Joe selected a great team and it showed. Most productions are lucky to get a couple of good singers and the rest are average. This production had at least a dozen talented singers, and most of them could dance beautifully too.

EVERY single actor was fully rehearsed, and performed immaculately. Congratulations.

This fun musical has drive, colour and vibrancy, try and catch it.