Saturday, 23 July 2016

REVIEW: Footloose at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

A foyer; palpable with energy and filled with people singing within their groups; the same phrase over and over again. “Everybody cut footloose”. The film of Footloose (1984) starring Kevin Bacon is a cult classic, and fans were eager for the start of the show to toe-tap their way through the evening. As it all kicked off with the unmistakable guitar riff written by Kenny Loggins, the excitement and energy in the audience only grew greater. 
Footloose follows the story of Ren, a Chicago teenagers moves to small, secluded town called ‘Bomont’ in West Virginia, where rock music and dancing are banned after an unfortunate accident killed 4 young residents. His brash attitude and rebellious nature shakes up the younger people of the town and as he meets the Reverend’s daughter, Ariel, things start to get even more complicated. 
What makes this production so unique is the phenomenal cast of actor-musicians. With no formal orchestra, the music played throughout is by the cast members either sitting to the side of the scene, or integrated into the centre of the action on stage. It was a fabulously refreshing set-up. The sets and scenery made great use of the height of the theatre, and the lighting was electric (if you’ll pardon the pun). 
This show really is made up of  knockout ensemble of actor-musos. Joanna Sawyer as Rusty was stunning. Her flawless vocals left audience members audibly gasping and she was the talk of the bar at the interval after her incredible singing during “Holding Out For A Hero”. 
As Ariel, Hannah Price lead the girls well and was a captivating stage-presence and commanded the focus of all her scenes. Her best moments came in the tender one-on-one conversations with Ren in Act II where Ariel’s wounded side begins to show. Her chemistry with Luke Baker as Ren was wonderful. Individually, he was also exceptional; his vocals throughout the night were superb, but his crowning glory was his emotive, raw and powerful dance sequence to conclude Act I. There was a real flavour of Billy Elliott’s “Angry Dance” and it gave me goosebumps.
Star attraction Gareth Gates (of Pop Idol fame) has proven himself a West End leading man in several productions over the years including Les Miserables, and Legally Blonde. As Willard, his characterisation was a very over-the-top and he definitely played for the laughs, but the audience lapped it up, and he went down a storm. He’s a character full of surprises
and was a crowd favourite for sure. Footloose also features Nolan sister, Maureen as Vi Moore, Ariel’s Mother. During a stunning trio performance of “Learning To Be Silent” featuring Ren’s Mother, Ariel’s Mother and Ariel, her vocals shon and the three ladies complimented each other’s tone beautifully. This was my favourite song from the evening. 
A trip to Footloose will leave you humming the tunes for days after. It’s as catchy and energetic as ever, and filled with some of the brightest stars on the circuit. This production is refreshingly original and one you won’t want to miss!

Review by Harriet Langdown 


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