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Footloose The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 17th Oct 2016 | View all blogs by Alison Smith


Reviewed by Alison Smith 

Footloose is based on a true story – that of the town of Elmore City, Oklahoma, where dancing was banned. In Footloose the Musical there is a twist to the tale, the dancing is banned in Bomont by the vicar, Shaw Moore (Nigel Lister) after the deaths of four teenagers, including his son, driving home after a dance. Into this quiet hick town comes Ren McCormack. His father had uppped and left and, out of necessity, the family have come to live with an uncle. Ren was a student in Chicago – a place more unlike rural Bomont is difficult to envisage. So the scene is set and fireworks ensue when the young people, led by Ren, break the veto on dancing.

The main protagonist, Ren (Luke Baker), is a typical teenager, energetic, optimistic and rebellious and of course he breaks the rules of the community. His saving grace from becoming obnoxious is his charm and sympathy. Ren is aided and abetted by Ariel Moore (Hannah Price), daughter of the vicar, a fiery, trouble – seeking girl. Her previous beau was Chuck (Tom Hier), Bomont’s bad boy, and one result is confrontation between the new boyfriend and the ex. These three actors/musicians are extremely talented. As in many modern musicals, actors are expected to play instruments, dance, sing and act simultaneously. Luke Baker especially is a versatile performer who also skates and backflips and Tom Hier excels on both keyboard and guitar. However, occasionally, the individual performances- especially the dancing suffer from the multi - tasking (It is difficult to dance clutching an instrument!).

One of the attractions of the musical is the presence of Gareth Gates as Willard, Ren’s unlikely, hill-billy friend.  Gates’ comic timing is excellent, as is his dancing, but the audience was short-changed with his performance – he should be given more solos. Maureen Nolan as the vicar’s wife, Vi Moore, is outstanding; her rendition of Can You Find It In Your Heart emotional.  Mention must be made of the actors who played  Ariel's friends,  Rusty, Urleen and Wendy-Jo; they  danced, sang and played instruments  with great skill. 

Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie have successfully adapted the story from film to stage with its limitations of space. The choreography by Racky Plews seems overly frenetic at times, but this may appear so as the performers are somewhat limited by the lack of space. It is lucky that the drummer, David Keech, who is also the musical director is perched almost out of sight up in the set. The set rates high for adaptability - the whole of small-town life is captured – church, diner, gym.

The story setting in the first act did at times feel slow, but there was a rise in energy in the second act. The music is energising and resonated with the audience – Holding Out For a Hero and Mama Says were sung with great effect and the final number Footloose had everyone on their feet moving to the music. Footloose is satisfyingly feel-good – it is rare in real life that people who believe in what they are fighting for actually win, so it is heart-warming, if fictional, to see Belmont’s teenagers’ success.

 Footloose is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 22nd October

 0844 871 7652

 Booking fee applies



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 year ago
    Thanks, Alison. I'm a big fan of this show but I found this production limited the performance of the actors by having them also play the instruments. As impressive as their skills were ... dancing was limited.
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