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Review: FOOTLOOSE, New Wimbledon Theatre

Review: FOOTLOOSE, New Wimbledon Theatre

If you’re looking to “cut loose” and dance the night away, you can’t go wrong with this touring production of Footloose.

Review: FOOTLOOSE, New Wimbledon Theatre Based on the hit 1984 film that propelled Kevin Bacon to fame, Footloose follows the story of Ren McCormack (Joshua Hawkins), a Chicago native who is forced to move to smalltown Bomont after his parent's separation. The script (for both the stage production and the film) contains all of the clichèd hallmarks of a coming-of-age story: angst teens, over-controlling parents, and a desire to escape where you came from.

However, the framing of this narrative is slightly different within Footloose for Bomont is a town where dancing (and rock music) are banned entirely making it one of the worst places for a boy who "can't stand still" to find himself.

Laws aside, this does not stop Ren from making his moves, especially when he meets Ariel Moore (Lucy Munden). As no teenage relationship can ever run smoothly, it quickly revealed that Ariel is the daughter of Rev. Shaw Moore, the very man who put the dancing ban in place in the first place following a tragic accident four years prior. Oh, and she's also dating town troublemaker, Chuck (the charismatic Tom Mussell). Convinced that "dancing is not a crime", Ren sets to get the town moving and grooving once again.

In some places, the script suffers from trying to do too many things at once - meaning that some of the heavier topics, such as grief, generational trauma and religion aren't explored with enough depth to have a profound impact. However, a lack of dramatic substance is remedied by a charismatic cast and a classic Jukebox score, meaning Footloose remains an entertaining evening.

There are various standouts within the small cast. Joshua Hawkins effortlessly evokes the spirit of an 80's movie heartthrob, finding the perfect blend of attitude and vulnerability throughout. Lucy Munden also impresses with powerhouse vocals, particularly during her rendition of "Holding Out For A Hero" and Oonagh Cox is an absolute scene-stealer as the quirky Rusty. Proving that girl power was all the rage in the 80s (and remains so today), Samantha Richards and Jess Barker round off this quarter spectacularly.

The production also featured Darren Day in the role of Rev. Shaw Moore, who helmed some of the production's most tender moments. JLS' Aston Merrygold also steps onto the stage in the role of Willard Hewitt, Ren's best friend who cannot dance. This within itself is somewhat humorous, as Aston has always been praised for his dancing ability (and fans will be pleased to hear his signature backflip does make an appearance in the production). Despite having a background more focused on music production, Aston is a compelling performer, making his scenes some of the more eye-catching ones.

Praise must also be awarded to the choreography from Matt Cole, which pays homage to many of the dancing scenes in the 1984 film. It's fast, punchy and often raunchy (so much so that I debated covering the eyes of the child sitting in front of me) - and it definitely wants to make you get up and dance along.

The cast also takes turns to provide the score for the evening, often brandishing instruments in between dialogue and vocal belts. For example, comic-duo Ben Mabberley and Alex Fobbester are rarely seen without an instrument in their hands. This is nothing but a testament to the talent of all those involved.

In short, Footloose is an all-singing, all-dancing night that fans of the movie are sure to love.

Footloose is at New Wimbledon Theatre until 20th August.

Photo Credit: Mark Senior

From This Author - Abbie Grundy

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