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.

Grease

Grease is the word Photo by Paul Coltas

Almost 50 years since it was first imagined by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, Grease The Musical still has huge audience appeal, for us oldies who share happy memories of dancing round their bedrooms pretending to be Rizzo mid ‘Sandra Dee’ to a new younger audience who simply can’t resist a bit of Greased Lightnin’.

The original 1994 London production has been revived by producers Paul Nicholas and David Ian ahead of a 10 month long UK and Ireland tour and boasts some big names on the bill, Tom Parker of The Wanted, Danielle Hope, Winner of BBC’s Over The Rainbow, veteran musical theatre star Darren Day and actress Louisa Lytton of Eastenders fame. Add to this direction from David Gilmore and choreography from Arlene Phillips and you have all the ingredients for an audience hit.

Danny & Sandy Photo by Paul Coltas

There were some nerves on show for Tom Parker who makes his musical theatre debut as Danny Zuko, next to cool as a cucumber Danielle Hope who made for an absolutely brilliant Sandy, Parker grew with confidence during the performance and is backed up by an impressive bunch of T-Birds with Michael Cortez giving a charismatic performance as Sonny, Tom Senior a suitably saucy Kenickie and Ryan Heenan and Oliver Jacobson delivering some great comedic moments as Doody and Roger. Of course where we find T-Birds we also find Pink Ladies, Louisa Lytton makes for a great Rizzo, full of attitude and sass her acting ability seriously impresses, while her voice isn’t as strong as the rest of her girl gang her feisty performance and slick dancing embody absolutely the rebellious Rizzo we all know and love so well. Pink Ladies Rhiannon Chesterman (Frenchy), Rosanna Harris (Jan) and Lauren Atkins (Marty) are all exceptional; they each deliver fine performances and suit their roles perfectly.

Grease Vince Photo by Paul Coltas

When the ensemble cast are on stage is when this production is at its absolute best, from bursting onto the stage full of confidence and attitude for Grease Is the Word right through to the classic You’re The One That I Want, Arlene Phillips’ choreography is slick and delivered with precision, the stage literally lights up with each of these brilliantly staged scenes. The school dance scene is particularly impressive with a great performance from Natasha Mould as the infamous Cha Cha. We also see Darren Day as both Teen Angel/Vince, Day’s vocals are strong and he has huge audience appeal however there’s a couple of odd moments where he breaks into a Jim Carey ‘The Mask’ impression then later Austin Powers, something I’d hope is ditched as the show develops it just didn’t fit with the production whatsoever.

Grease T Birds Photo by Paul Coltas

This is a production that delivers some brilliant performances, as the cast grow in confidence over the next ten months it will no doubt develop into a finely greased machine (sorry I couldn’t resist) with ensemble pieces really packing a punch, and sublime vocals from the seriously talented Danielle Hope, Grease is a fabulous fun night out that will leave you on a high, reminiscing about your very own days as a teen angel.

On at The Palace Theatre until Saturday 25th March tickets available via the link below;

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/grease-2017/palace-theatre-manchester/