Footloose

Reviewed by Alison Ruck

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Everybody cut loose… Footloose has returned to Manchester!

The feel-good all singing, all dancing musical follows the story of teenage rebel Ren McCormack who arrives in the small town of Bomont, and to his dismay finds that music, dancing and rock n roll is banned following a tragedy that struck the town 5 years prior. Ren, along with the town’s teenagers, take matters into their own hands and fight to bring joy back to the town. And what brings more joy than dancing!

The cast is led by Joshua Hawkins as Ren McCormack, the charming big city boy who shakes up the small town. Joshua is joined by Lucy Munden as the girl next door-cum-hellraiser Ariel Moore. The duo make a good pair and their effortlessly beautiful voices shine, particularly within their romantic duet ‘Almost Paradise’.

The leads are joined by TV personality, and star of numerous West End productions, Darren Day, as the firm Reverend Shaw Moore. Darren gave a strong performance, but the character as a whole leaves something to be desired. The deep scenes only seem to scratch the surface of the emotion that could be portrayed, although Day’s musicality and voice hold its own within this very talented cast.

The biggest surprise and star of the show has to be Jake Quickenden in the role of Willard Hewitt. Quickenden – best known for his role in Hollyoaks, winner of Dancing on Ice and previous Dream Boy – is a great fit for the role of tough boy Willard, really giving the character the energy and spark it needs and deserves. His comedy was sincere and easy and he displayed top notch vocals and dancing whilst even playing guitar on stage too.

One of the best elements of the show has to be the musicality that runs through the core of the production, as each member of the cast take on the role of orchestra within the midst of the onstage action. From flutes to guitar and saxophones, the cast wows as they bring the music right into the story. Not only playing an instrument but singing and dancing whilst doing so, making the cast not only triple threats but quadruple threats (if that’s even a thing?).

The choreography is fun and athletic, with lots of playful thrusting and the odd typical 80’s dance move thrown in, simply adding to the overall joyous nature of the musical.

The cast is very small, which sometimes can be felt in the dance numbers, as it misses the full stage production feel that can be expected with such large-scale musicals. With a main cast of 6 doing most of the dancing throughout, as other cast members do their best to join in whilst playing instruments, this does restrict the energy and scope of the choreography.

If you’re familiar with the film version, either the 1980’s Kevin Bacon classic or the more modern 2011 remake, you’ll know the musical features 80’s pop hits such as ‘Holding Out for a Hero, ‘Almost Paradise’, ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’ and of course the unforgettable title track ‘Footloose’. However, the other songs are more than forgettable in-between, which really holds the production back from its full potential.

Despite this, the songs that are known and loved from the show are its stand out moments. ‘Lets Hear it For The Boys’ is a real crowd pleaser – and not only because the audience is treated to a dance from a particularly popular cast member in gold hot pants…

‘Holding Out For A Hero’ is the perfect female powerhouse song, bringing together the wonderful voices of Lucy Munden, Oonagh Cox and Jess Barker combined with some pure 80’s music video vibes.

Overall Footloose is a joyful spectacle that will leave your toes tapping and face smiling. Just as in the story, the musical will remind you how amazing it can feel to really let loose and dance the night away.

You can catch Footloose at the Opera House, Manchester until Saturday 5th March, tickets available here.

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