Review by: Paul Towers, 30 August 2016
Footloose The Musical by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie
Produced by Sell A Door Theatre Company & Runaway Entertainment
Curve 29 Aug to 3 September
“Holding out for …?.”
In recent years there has been a trend for adapting popular films into stage musicals. Often it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Footloose, the 1984 film, is the archetypal date movie; a romantic, good out of towner versus bigoted small towner, with a soundtrack of poppy 1980’s hits. The stage version should be an ideal girls-night-out fun show that you come away from humming the tunes and feeling all warm inside.
The story is fairly slight, a boy and his mother move from Chicago to Bomont, a fly spot on the map of America’s mid west. There they are stunned to find that dancing is forbidden and the boy sets about overturning this archaic law. On the way he discovers love.
So where does it all go so horribly wrong?
This mish mash of a catastrophe takes all the good bits from the film and dilutes them with down beat, dirges of ballads and a storyline of domestic violence and good ole southern bible bashing. The whole thing lurches from high to low like a pedestrian roller coaster. It was a good 20 minutes into the production that it livened up even a little.
As is so often the case with modern musicals the cast are expected to sing, dance and play instruments. In Footloose The Musical the talented cast do all three to the best of their ability with the material they are given but most of the songs only elicited a barely polite round of applause. The exceptions were the known numbers from the film, Footloose, Holding Out For a Hero and Let’s Hear it For The Boy.
As the plot stumbles from one dirge to another there are thankfully small comedic moments from a surprising source. Gareth Gates, he of Pop Idol fame, lurches on, zombie-like and overacting like mad, as the local dumb yokel who befriends newcomer Ren McCormack, ably played by Luke Baker, shows a nicely developing sense of comedy with some amusing self deprecating lines about speech impediments. However these occasional bright spots, like glimpses of blue sky amongst the storm clouds of an autumn day, were never enough to lift the tone.
As the second half wended its weary way towards the end there was one final obstacle for us, the patient audience, to overcome. Just as the finale built to its limp crescendo a technical fault prevented the front cloth from rising on cue. I felt it may very well have been divine intervention and someone somewhere was trying to tell us to go home before depression set in or maybe the mechanics had just died of embarrassment. But then, after a 5 minute break, the lights went back down, the music started again, the curtain behaved itself and we were finally into the home stretch. At last there was life in the audience as the medley of the memorable hits signalled the final bows and we could at last escape, never to recapture those lost hours.
First published in Western Gazette