‘Footloose’ (Edinburgh Playhouse) | Review By Lewis C. Baird

‘Footloose The Musical’ is a stage adaptation of the hit 1984 Kevin Bacon motion picture. The story follows city boy Ren, who thinks life is bad enough when he’s forced to move to a rural backwater in America. But his world comes to a standstill when he arrives at Bomont to find dancing and rock music are banned. Taking matters into his own hands, soon Ren has all hell breaking loose and the whole town on its feet.  

Joshua Hawkins brings high energy as Ren McCormack, the troubled teen who dances his cares away. With Joshua’s performance there’s an embrace of the comedic side of Ren, there’s a dorkiness to him. You can’t help but feel there could be more of an edge to help bring some more depth to Ren and also bring a darker side to the cause he’s fighting.

Lucy Munden is the vocal highlight of ‘Footloose’ with her powerhouse vocals as Ariel Moore. ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ is without a doubt the best scene within this musical and Lucy’s vocals aluminate the theatre with their sheer power. We also see the damaged side to Ariel with Lucy’s naturalistic approach at points.

Darren Day gives us the stoic Reverend Shaw Moore, a conservative man pushing his beliefs as a veil for his pain. This is a straight laced performance from Darren which presents the Reverend’s pain in an understated manner. Vocally the pinnacle of this performance is Darren’s performance of ‘I Confess’, you feel the frustration and pain of the character. However, throughout the performance you want the character’s wall to be lowered so there is less of a neutral stance and we see a bit more passion behind the reverend’s cause.

Jake Quickenden is the surprise favourite of the production, his comedy, singing and dancing all create a brilliantly hilarious version of Willard Hewitt. Jake brings such a cheeky side to Willard while also embracing the character’s small-town mindset for comic value. Oonagh Cox’s Rusty is a perfect match for Quickenden’s Willard. Oonagh’s vibrant and cookie portrayal of Rusty lifts scenes and brings great energy for ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’. 

Holly Ashton as Vi Moore/Principal Clark and Wendy Paver as Ethel McCormach/Betty/Coach, both bring a variety of strong woman into this production while also delivering humour and emotional moments. 

Also featuring in this production is Tom Mussell as Chuck, Samantha Richards as Urleen, Jess Barker as Wendy-Jo, Ben Mabberley as Jeter/Cowboy Bob, Alex Fobbester as Bickle, Ben Barrow as Wes, Lucy Ireland as Lulu, Anna Westlake (onstage swing) and Daniel Miles (offstage swing). All these performers help add to the energy and lift scenes. 

Racky Plews’ direction of ‘Footloose’ has the vision to reinvigorate the 90s musical and make it resonate with a 2022 audience. The creative spin of the actors also being musicians (meaning the band is present on stage throughout) is clever, and pays off by making Mark Crossland’s arrangement sound great. However, there are moments that the actors also being musicians takes away from their characters and the narrative. There also seems to be a clash in the overall tonality of the production, where it feels there has been an attempt to embrace the gritty themes of this story while also embracing the camp side of this musical. Neither of these principles are effectively sustained, leaving the darker scenes rather shallow and the fun scenes at points leave the audience rather underwhelmed.

Matt Cole’s choreography helps lift the energy of each musical number and gives the audience a reason to want to see the characters dance. Sara Perks design of this set is perfect and helps create the environments of Bomont. The set is complimented by Chris Davey’s vibrant and effective lighting design. 

The main issue with this musical is that the stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie struggles to translate the original motion picture’s screenplay to stage effectively. There isn’t much depth for the actors to grapple with. Even if they were going for the cheesy eighties style, there isn’t much fun supplied in the text. With that the Music by Tom Snow and Lyrics by Dean Pitchford has only three memorable songs in the form of ‘Footloose’, ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ and ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’. 

That being said, ‘Footloose’ is a fun musical which supplies fans of the original 1980s motion picture a stage adaptation to experience live in a theatre near them.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Get your tickets for ‘Footloose’ at the Edinburgh Playhouse via the link below:

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/footloose/edinburgh-playhouse/

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