‘Footloose’ (Glasgow King’s Theatre) | Review By Rebecca Donati

Everybody cut loose on Monday night in Glasgow. Following two critically acclaimed tours and a West End run, Footloose is back and better than ever. Starring the wonderful Aston Merrygold and Darren Day ‘Footloose’ is a feel good phenomenon. The roof was roaring off of The King’s Theatre in Glasgow during their finale causing the floor to rumble. A brilliant night out. 

City boy Ren 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 portrays an interesting interpretation of Ren as  he captures a quirky more modernistic version of the beloved character. His energy level throughout the play is sustained well as he has the role of being the driving force of the plot. Ren is well characterised and Joshua manages to balance his more vulnerable moments, however, I do think Joshua could benefit by developing the edgier, more rebellious side of his character. 

Lucy Mukden has a powerhouse vocal ability which will leave you on the edge of your seat. Taking you through all the classics she does not disappoint. Her portrayal of Ariel has a more naturalistic approach in comparison to the other characters which stands out. She portrays Ariel’s complexities well. 

Oonagh Cox is hilarious as Rusty. I particularly enjoy her intonation and the intentionally slow delivery of the dialogue. She has a powerful singing voice which the audience adored. Her character relationship with Willard was well developed and particularly sweet. 

Aston Merrygold was a crowd favourite in Glasgow. Despite being renowned for his dancing and singing ability it was his acting ability that took the crowd by surprise as he smashed Willard out of the park. His dedication to the character was impressive, he maintained his accent throughout. He had wonderful stage presence and real star quality.

Darren Day plays a very composed Rev. Shaw Moore. He has a lovely tone throughout and captures the concerned father well. His physical composure and stature creates real power in his status in the play. I felt slightly let down due to the emotional build up to his violent outburst towards Ariel as I felt it was too understated to be believable in what is a rock bottom moment for his character. 

They say behind every strong man is an even stronger woman. This statement rings true for Holly Ashton as Vi Moore and Wendy Paver as Ethel McCormack. Holly has created a more modernised version of Vi which I think at times takes away from her powerful statements as she stands up for her daughter and Ren. However, the intent and delivery of her dialogue come across very intelligent and intentional – not to mention her angelic tone as she sings. Wendy Paver has a great ability to bring you into her world of the play, her naturalistic quality’s make for a very believable mother figure. Her portrayal of her own turmoil and her own struggles are very enticing to the audience.

The ensemble doubled up as the band for the play which is a nice added touch. The ensemble had fantastic energy and brought a lot of fun to the show. Their choreography was incredibly clean and slick. They looked like they were enjoying the production and that made it more fun for us to get into the rowdier parts of the production. The only criticism for the ensemble doubling up as the band was that during the emotional moments in the songs and story, they looked slightly out of place being darted around the stage, the emotion of the story could’ve been showcased even more with the band behind the flats.

Matt Cole’s choreography overall was fantastic and very clean, the rodeo scene as the second act opener gave such a massive energy boost for the cast and audience coming back from the break and Cole’s routines made that happen. The choreography gave such a fast-paced wow factor that Footloose deserves.

Sara Perks’ set design gave that timeless 80s feel and captivated the viewers in the world of the play. From the roller diner to the rodeo dance club, it really hit the nail on the head in its representation and portrayal of the settings. However, for Rev. Shaw Moore’s home, the idea for the room to be on wheels to allow easy movement on and off stage was perfect, but it could be upscaled slightly just to allow the actors to move freely around it and allow the action to take place “in” the room rather than stepping off and the action taking place around the rest of the stage. This just allows it to be kept in that world and even the chance to utilise more of the beautifully designed set piece.

Chris Davey’s lighting design was used very well. The contrasting colours during scenes that emphasised the emotion and atmosphere of the dialogue and scene were nicely done. The use of lights to interpret the trains also added some more detail to the small things. The crucifix light during the church sermon scenes had a habit of going out, this could be a cue timing issue or simply just a faulty light but that doesn’t take away from the great lighting display.

Chris Whybrow utilised the sound effects really well. The small details seemed to be thought through well throughout every technical aspect of Footloose as the sound was no different. The added sounds of the rain, trains chugging by and fading into the distance, and near enough everything was an instrument used by a band member to create this atmosphere from start to finish.

In conclusion, Footloose lived up to the expectation set by the iconic film and blew the audience in Glasgow away to the point the finale became a 10/15 minute standing ovation and dance. They had the floor shaking and the crowd enjoying every song and every character. A few tweaks here and there can make this show a standout for future theatres and audiences alike.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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