Some of my favourite Christmas presents are things that happen in the future, like holidays, shows and concert tickets, because you get a little unexpected treat later in the year. This was kinda the case with Footloose, except it wasn’t my Christmas present, it was my gift to mum – and a sneaky one to me as well. Footloose is one of my all-time favourite dance movies (and the song even features in my Zumba class from time to time), so when I spotted the show listed for May 2016 at the Grand Opera House, I rubbed my hands together at the thought of finding a Christmas present for mum that we could both enjoy together.
It might sound kinda crazy, but the words ‘Footloose’ and ‘Musical’ hadn’t quite come together in my brain, so when it came to the show, I was expecting a LOT more dancing than singing – but in a way, this is what set the show apart from the movies that I have seen so many times before. Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie’s adaptation the 1984 film brought together music and dance to retell the tale of what is actually a true story – something I didn’t know before I read my programme that night.
For those of you who haven’t seen Footloose (shame on you!), it tells the story of Ren McCormack, troubled teen boy who moves from the bustling city of Chicago to stiflingly quiet Bomont, and channels all that teenage angst into challenging the town’s laws against dancing, all whilst falling for the daughter of the local preacher (who just so happens to be the driving force behind those silly laws).
Admittedly, the first act was a little slow to establish the story and introduce characters to those who weren’t familiar with the movie, but with some big numbers like Holding Out For a Hero; and the building chemistry between Luke Baker (who plays Ren) and Hannah Price (playing Ariel); it wasn’t long before our Saturday night audience were warmed up and playing along.
As my favourite character in the movie, I was always going to have a soft spot for Lee Brennan’s (of 1990s boyband fame) character of Willard, but he absolutely stole the show. From his dazzling gold hotpants to his hilarious commentary, socially awkward mannerisms and heartwarming dance moves, he stayed in character from start to finish.
I will confess: when it came to the dancing, I was expecting dancing to rival Julianne Hough in the movie’s most recent adaptation, and with that in mind, some of the choreography didn’t wow me as much as I’d hoped, even in the final performance of the title track ‘Footloose’. However, with this adaptation, it all came down to the story, and there was no doubt that we left the theatre with that feel-good sensation that any good musical should provide.
As a final note, massive kudos to a totally multi-talented cast, who not only sang and danced, but picked up their instrument of choice and joined the orchestra when the time was right!