28 June to 2 July 2016
Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
This was on my list of shows that I was desperate to see, so I was delighted to be able to review it. My only initial concern about the show was that it may be targeted for a teenage/young adult audience, but this was not the case as both myself and mother thought it was simply amazing (we are in our mid-thirties and mid-sixties).
The Alhambra Theatre in Bradford is just less than 10 minutes walk away from the train station and next to a large multi-storey car-park. It is beautifully modern inside with bars on each level and a restaurant. The staff are helpful and polite, the entire place is clean and the seating in the auditorium is perfectly comfortable. It is a beautiful theatre.
The musical is set in 1980’s West Virginia, USA. Ren McCormack (played by Luke Baker) and his mother have been forced to move away from Chicago to live in small town Bomont with his uncle. Ren is angry and troubled since his father left the family, but finds it difficult to fit into the ways of the small town, which is heavily controlled by the local preacher. Dancing is forbidden in the town, following a tragic accident several years previously. Ren and his friend Willard (played by Gareth Gates) campaign to bring dancing back to the lifeless town, with the help of the preacher’s daughter and her friends. It is a story of teenage romance, dancing and not following the rules!
The cast was relatively small, as actors often played more than one role which worked perfectly. A unique aspect to the show was that the actors played all of the musical instruments themselves. You would imagine this to distract from the story, but instead it complimented it as the instruments were introduced seamlessly and it gave the audience so much to look at, and the supporting cast became vital to the scene. The cast were incredibly talented as many played several instruments and, from what I could tell, not a note was out of place even during dance sequences.
It was simply amazing to watch.
The music suited the different themes running throughout, with a couple of 1980’s pop numbers added to the mix. My particular favourites were “Somebody’s Eyes” which was beautifully haunting, “The Girl Gets Around” which was a slightly raunchy number and “Let’s Hear if For the Boy”. In fact, I loved them all!
Gareth Gates surprisingly did not play the lead role, but instead his first comedic part as the shy and awkward Willard. As well as not being the most intelligent of boys (to put it mildly), Willard cannot dance. This leads to one of many hilarious scenes where his friends try to teach him how to move. Gareth was perfect in this role with his total embodiment of the character throughout, comic timing and perfectly timed facial expressions. We had several unexpected laugh out loud moments. Gareth did sing one number, but it was a real shock to see how amazing an actor he is. The audience adored him – if you have the opportunity to watch Gareth in anything, do!
I have to mention his love interest Rusty, played by the brilliant Joanna Sawyer, who was simply superb as part of the double act during the number “Holding Out for a Hero”… it definitely had a couple of surprises which were hysterical.
The lead actors Luke Baker and Hannah Price were perfectly cast and believable throughout, with the most amazing voices. The singing, dancing and instrument playing was superb from the entire cast.
The set had rotating scenes which had such attention to detail and complimented the story perfectly, and the costumes and 80’s hair were so nostalgic and well designed.
The finale was 1980’s fashion and decor at its best… and naturally the entire audience was on its feet dancing and cheering. A well-deserved standing ovation from a dedicated and brilliant cast.
Whether you have seen the film version or not, this musical does not disappoint. It surpassed my expectations and is an easy 5/5 stars.
Tickets cost from £20.50 to £41 (booking fees may apply).
Footloose The Musical is at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford until 2 July 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 01274 432000.
Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ | 01274 432000