Reviewed by Catherine Joyce
Last night we went to the opening night of Footloose – The Musical at Preston Guild Hall. It was a highly energetic and lively show that we both really enjoyed. Preston Guild Hall is easy to get to and with a couple of excellent restaurants and bars in the complex it gives theatre goers the opportunity to make a night of it if they wish. The conveniently located bus station car park provides the perfect place to park and the connecting walkway direct into the Guild Hall means you don’t even need to brave the weather.
Produced by the Selladoor Theatre Company, Footloose – The Musical stars Pop Idol star Gareth Gates as Willard and Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore, the Reverend’s wife. The play, which is loosely based on a true story, follows teenager Ren McCormack, who moves from Chicago to Bomont, a small Midwestern town, with his mum when his dad walks out on them. Dancing is banned in Bomont due to an accident in which four students were killed after going to a dance and the town has never got over it. Like many small American towns of the time the town is full of highly religious, straight laced adults who all attend church regularly whilst the children of the town just want to be teenagers and have some fun! Ren courageously battles to abolish the ban and succeeds in staging the first high school prom.
The show opens with the highly energetic Footloose song and this was a taste of the night to come. Sometimes in musicals there is very little dialogue but Footloose manages to achieve a good balance between story-telling and songs. The entire cast was very strong and not only did they sing and dance they were the orchestra too. Almost the whole cast played at least one instrument on stage and everyone performed their role with plenty of energy and vitality. The show was very well choreographed by Matthew Cole making full use of the set for some impressive dance numbers using styles from the 80’s mixed with a country & western feel.
The real stars of the show for me were Joshua Dowen and Hannah Price playing teenagers Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore. Surprisingly Gareth Gates, who I would have expected to feature in more songs only took the lead in one, he was great to watch showing a talent for comedy, playing the naive country boy and generating the most laughs of the evening
Music is obviously central to the show with around half the numbers from the original film and the rest written by Tom Snow with lyrics by Dean Pritchard. The cast play all the instruments on stage and we did not feel this was a distraction to the story, after all we expect the actors to sing in a musical so why not play the instruments too?
We have seen this show before, performed on a much larger stage, but the well- designed set easily adapted to the smaller stage in the Guild Hall. The set itself quickly transforming from church to school to burger bar and back again. Costumes were great bringing a real 80’s feel, the ladies in the audience particularly enjoying the part where Gareth is stripped down to just a pair of tiny shorts!
We felt that the show was a little slow to get going but following the interval the pace began to step up culminating in an energetic finale where the entire cast took to the stage for the high school dance. The audience finally got into the spirit of the night and rose to their feet for a final rendition of Footloose.
If you liked the film and want a bit more 80’s fun then the show is on until the 12th August at Preston and has a few more dates planned on the UK tour for the rest of the year.
Tickets cost from £19 to £36.50 (booking fees may apply).
Footloose – The Musical is at the Preston Guild Hall from 8-12 August 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.prestonguildhall.co.uk or call the box office on 01772 804444.
The Guild Hall & Charter Theatre, Lancaster Road, Preston, PR1 1HT | 01772 804444