Footloose

Date 23rd April 2013
Society Irving Stage Company
Venue Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Type of Production Musical
Director Sian Couture
Musical Director Mark Jefferson
Choreographer Sian Couture & Christine Glancy

Report

Author: Julie Petrucci

I am in danger of running out of superlatives for this review.  In fact I only found one thing on the debit side, so I will get that out of the way.   The music runnning under the dialogue in most cases was too loud for me to hear what the actors were saying. Other than that this was a super show, brilliantly directed and inventively choreographed by Sian Couture together with assistant choreographer Christine Glancy and under the musical direction of Mark Jefferson. 

The story line in Footloose as with most, if not all, teen musicals, is pretty basic.  Ren, a stroppy high school student is uprooted from his Chicago home after his parents’ divorce and moved to the tiny hick town of Bomont where he discovers dancing has been banned by Reverend Moore, the local preacher, and the Town Council.  Being someone who can’t stay still and has to dance Ren is determined to change that. This finally leads to a head-to-head between Ren and the Reverend Moore – or open-mindedness versus narrow-mindedness, which is about as deep as the show gets.

Although more mature than some Footloose casts I have seen I think the show gained because of it.  There were no slack performances in this hugely talented cast who were full of drive and energy: everyone played their part in creating an amazing first-night performance.  

Josie May Harrington as preacher’s daughter Ariel and Serena Grant as Rusty, were both absolutely excellent and together with their friends Urleen and Wendy-Jo (Alana Self and Kathryn Smith respectively), all did a fine job it was easy to believe they were all good friends.  In particular I thought Somebody’s Eyes was beautifully done and Holding Out for a Hero and Let’s Hear it for the Boy were great.   Both pairings in the principal roles; Ariel and Ren and Rusty and Willard were very convincing.   

Brian Carmack making his debut with the Irving Stage Company made an ideal Ren. He was confident in movement and voice which was matched by some fine acting. In particular his scene with the Rev Moore towards the end of the show was powerful from both actors.  

Ben Musgrove gave good support as the good ol’ country boy Willard Hewitt making the most of his role’s comic potential and getting all the humour possible from it.  

Other fine performances came from  Angela Gant as Mrs Moore and Dan Bunker as Rev. Moore.  Ms Gant’s Can You Find It In Your Heart was lovely and, I felt, quite moving.  Mr Bunker has an excellent and powerful voice and great stage presence.  The empathy between these two actors was almost tangible: excellent performances both.   

Other performances worthy of note came from Ben Child as the surly Chuck Cranston and Sian Couture as Ren’s mother Ethel.

I much enjoyed Darlene’s (Kathryn Smith) Let’s Make Believe We’re In Love  and Cowboy Bob’s (Patrick Yardy) Achy Breaky Heart in The Bar-B-Que. There were some great and uplifting chorus routines and some excellent ensemble numbers too: I loved Holding Out For A Hero, Mama Says, Still Rockin’ and of course Footloose and after all their efforts they still had the energy to give us a tremendous Megamix to send us on our way almost as exhausted from watching as they must have been from performing .  

The whole show was very slick.  Swift scene changes, excellent lighting and costumes made Footloose thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.