Footloose, The Musical

Date 28th September 2019
Society CODY Musical Theatre Company
Venue Prince’s Hall, Aldershot
Type of Production Musical
Director Sue Canfield
Musical Director Zoe Hardy
Choreographer Graham McCarron-Wright


Author: Jane Turner

Once again CODY chose a terrific show to add to their already impressive repertoire.  The story follows the fortunes of Ren McCormack, a teenager raised in Chicago with a love of rock and roll and dance, who moves with his mother Ethel to the small town of Bomont, Utah, to live with his aunt and uncle, after his father abandoned them.  He learns that the city council banned dancing and rock music five years earlier because of a car accident in which four young people were killed, including the son of the Rev Shaw Moore who holds the authority in the town.  Ren falls for the minister’s daughter Ariel, who has been having a fling with the local bad boy Chuck Cranston.  He determines to bring back dancing to the town and is enthusiastically supported by his classmates, particularly his new friend Willard Hewitt, a slow-witted cowboy who admits to having two left feet.  Ren eventually convinces the Rev Moore that the pain of his son’s death has overshadowed his life, thereby affecting the lives of the community.  Moore announces to his parishioners that he has had a change of heart and finally the young people are able to hold a dance, joined by the adults of the town, and the evening becomes not only a celebration but also an expression of healing.

The energetic opening number set the scene and had the audience tapping their feet from the start.  Dale Barrell as Ren displayed huge vitality which he sustained throughout the show.  His relationship with his mother Ethel, Lynn Clegg, was affectionate and playful and I liked her quiet humour and down-to-earth handling of their situation.  Ron Walker as the Reverend Moore went from being a firebrand preacher and controlling member of the local council to a contemplative, grieving father who had the courage to change his mind, which also brought him closer to his long-suffering wife Vi, a lovely character part for Tracyann Johnson.  Moore’s daughter Ariel, Rebecca Rogers, had the perfect part for her youth and wilfulness, standing up to her father and eventually ditching her boyfriend Chuck, Paul Gibson, in favour of the more gentle but exciting Ren.  Gibson started off by being the bully-boy but ultimately faded away from his companions rather sadly, I thought.  Rob Tickner as Willard stood out from the crowd.  His early appearances as rather slow-witted and shy with two left feet, devoted to his mother who was his icon and afraid of acknowledging the adoring Rusty, Sian Boorman, grew into a strong and confident character who displayed an unexpected talent for dance.  He was a joy to watch.

The large stage was well used in every corner.  Through no fault of the company, I did think that sometimes the orchestra overshadowed the words but the Prince’s Hall doesn’t have an orchestra pit so the orchestra is on a level with the stalls.  But this did not detract from the overall sound and sheer enthusiasm of the performers.

The simple set was effective and served for both the interior and exterior scenes.  The upper level added an extra dimension and was used successfully.  Below this, a curtain shielded most of the props which were brought on and off for scene changes without being obvious or interrupting the flow – there was plenty going on to distract the audience.  The cast also played their part in moving props.

The authentic costumes reflected the period admirably.  The stunning red robes of the choir were particularly eye-catching and looked like a heavenly host of Seraphim!

Sue Canfield’s direction was a triumph, bringing together an enormous number of diverse characters, matched by the inventive choreography of Graham McCarron-Wright and enhanced by the authentic costumes designed by Helen Dayson.  Yet another unforgettable production by this hugely talented and diverse group who never fail to entertain and impress.