Kick off your Sunday shoes and enjoy the power of 80s pop in Footloose live at Opera House Manchester. Paul Thomason reviews:
The musical Footloose, adapted from the 1980’s movie of the same name, invites you to kick off your Sunday shoes and enjoy over two hours of great entertainment. The show contains the most well known songs from the film and includes lots of original songs composed by Tom Snow with lyrics from Dean Pritchard who wrote the original screenplay.
Joshua Hawkins may not be top billing but he brings the lead character of High School Senior, Ren McCormack to life with a cheeky confidence.
When Ren’s father abandons him and his mother, Ethel (Geri Allen), they have to leave the lively metropolis of Chicago to move in with Ethel’s brother in the small Bible-belt town of Bomont. The trouble for Ren is that he is an energetic teenager who, typically, loves pop music and dancing but they have been banned in town for the last five years following the deaths of four youngsters whose drink and drug driving after a night out resulted in a drop from a high bridge into the Potawney River. The whole town has been in a forced state of mourning ever since and are constantly reminded of the apparent evils of dance by the powerful Reverend Shaw Moore (Darren Day) and everything about Ren rubs him (and most of the town) up the wrong way.
There is the irony of Day playing a father who doesn’t want his daughter, Ariel, hanging around with the bad boys given his tabloid headlining past, but their is no doubting the quality of his voice or performance. He plays a man teaching his own misinterpretations of his faith and struggling with his own demons and insecurities.
Ariel is played by Lucy Munden in her professional debut and she appears to be relishing the rebellious nature of her character while more than holding her own while belting out Holding Out For A Hero.
As well as his budding relationship with Ariel, Ren forms a friendship with country hick, Willard (Jake Quickenden) who provides laughs throughout and is utterly charismatic with it. Through all the coming-of-age and processing of separation and grief some of the characters go through, there are many other characters who are there just for the giggles and the songs. Oonagh Cox, Samantha Richards and Jess Barker provide plenty of laughs and while performing Let’s Hear It For The Boy, they team up with Quickenden getting him down to his Rocky Horror / Kylie Minogue gold hot pants which alone might get some repeat visitors judging by the reaction.
Racky Plews has directed a pacey show that has the musicians on stage with the majority of actors playing multiple instruments while dressed in their colourful 80’s garb. The packed crowd barely needed any encouragement to get on their feet for a lawful dance to the final megamix and applaud the talented cast.
Footloose is at Opera House Manchester from 28 February to 5 March 2022.