Footloose the Musical

Jul 20 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Still Rockin’

Playhouse: Tue 19 – Sat 23 July
Review by Yvonne Paterson

Footloose The Musical at the Edinburgh Playhouse has audiences kicking off their Sunday shoes all week, or at least until this Saturday 27 July, in the return of this big touring production.

The story of a city boy who moves to a small town where rock music and dancing are banned gets Tom Snow’s musical numbers right, but fails to get into the nitty gritty of Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie’s book, which needs to have its dark side to work.

A scene from Footloose. Pic: Selladoor.

Footloose is the musical adaptation of 1980’s cult classic film about city boy Ren McCormack who moves from Chicago to the small time town Bomont.

Adjusting to his new life takes getting used to. Having been abandoned by his dad, he and his mum have to live with his uncle, there’s a new school, new church, new friends, a new rival and, worst of all, new rules.

The realisation that dancing and rock music are banned has Ren rallying up his new friends and trying to convince them and the town that dancing is not a crime.

Lively note

The production opens on a lively note with the title number seeing Ren saying goodbye to his friends and helping his mum (Wendy Paver) pack up the car for the long drive ahead. The set and costumes for Chicago are dull, in huge contrast to the interchangeable set and bright costumes of Bomont.

Ren played by Joshua Hawkins shows signs of being the good time boy and one of the lads. Hawkins is likeable in the role and his vocals are on point. His charm shines through and he is engaging to watch.

A scene from Footloose. Pic: Selladoor.

This is reiterated in I can’t stand still, boldly performed in nothing but a towel, while making friends with Willard Hewitt. How Ren can turn an almost “two people shoving” moment into a friendship is genius. Matt Cole’s choreography is faultless and well executed. It’s comical but it’s clear a bromance has been formed.

The friendship Ren strikes up with Willard is just what he needs, Although Will seems a little uningenious, their friendship grows. Jake Quickenden is a delight in the role as Will and his comic timing is spot on, his awkwardness with girls is amusing…especially after his gold hot pants moment!

Ren makes an unwanted enemy in the form of local bad boy Chuck played by Tom Russell, who is dating Ariel Moore: the daughter of the town’s preacher.. Chuck takes an instant dislike to the new boy and is jealous of Ariel’s flirting with him. Russell oozes confidence and gives a convincing performance as the bad boy.

hurt and frustration

Ren can’t help but notice Ariel as the wild child of the town. Lucy Munden shines in the role, giving a wonderful performance as she effortlessly belts out Holding out for a hero. It is a shame that her performance is not matched by all those around her.

Playing the daughter of Rev. Shaw Moore, she conveys the hurt and frustration of living under a strict father. However there isn’t a feeling of being under her father’s rule.

A scene from Footloose. Pic: Selladoor.

Rev. Shaw Moore played by Darren Day is a disappointing antagonist. His vocals are always on point but feels too nice in the role. He seems more interested in breaking the fourth wall, rolling his eyes at the audience. His spoken delivery simply lacks weight so he appears to be whining.

The absurdity of the rest of the cast performing with musical instruments on stage in his presence and their caricature-like performances would work better if he didn’t play to the audience in the same way. By doing so he loses all the power from his character – almost like he was in on the joke and it didn’t work.

For a character who is meant to be controlling, he isn’t. The character relies on the narrative of others and songs such as Somebody’s eyes. Rev Moore’s back-story of losing his son plummets him into a place of needing something to blame – or more to the point needing control – would have worked, but Day never gets this across.

Director Racky Plews decision to shy away from this along with breezing over domestic violence has a real consequence on the production throughout: softening the blow for example of the song Learning to be silent.

no impact

As a result, there is no impact to Rev. Moore’s turn-around, because the real issues haven’t been properly revealed or explored. His heart to heart with Ren does not enlighten – and Day’s character choices mean there is no room for this moment between the two to mean anything.

This being said, it doesn’t take away from the rest of the cast. Playing live and constantly switching instruments, they display nothing but talent which is enjoyable and to be admired.

There is a time to cry, a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance – Footloose will definitely have you doing two out of the four!

Running time 2hrs (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA. Phone booking: 0844 871 3014.
Tue 18 – Sat 23 July 2022
Tue – Sat: 7.30pm; Mats Weds, Sat: 2.30pm. 
Tickets and details: Book here.

A scene from Footloose. Pic: Selladoor.


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