Review by David Munro
WILL the boom in eighties musicals never end? After We Will Rock
You and Tonights The Night comes Footloose, a minor
eighties musical film, now turned into a major musical stage show.
At least this has a postulated composer, even if there a list
of additional music credits, rather than a compilation of a rock
band, or stars erstwhile hits, which is the first thing
to its credit.
I say first advisedly, because this show has a lot going for
it and, giving credit where credit is due, it notches up an awful
lot of credits in my book.
The story is a peg to hang the musical numbers on, which is par
for the course. Boy from the city hits a small town , ruled by
bigots, where all enjoyment is banned , particularly dancing,
proceeds to take on the town and gets sanction to stage a dance
to the great delight of all concerned and not least the audience.
It is primarily a dance show and, as such, is terrific. A principally
young cast leap, kick and gyrate with boundless energy to the
choreography of Karen Bruce.
Miss Bruce was, I see from her resume, once associate director
with Arlene Phillips, and she has learned her lesson well and
beaten her erstwhile boss at her own game.
Her choreography, while modern, incorporates a lot of Balletic
steps and, in this respect, resembles the work of the late Jerome
Robbins. And no bad thing when the combination of Ballet and modern
dance works, as it does here, so incredibly well.
I think she has also been very skillful in her selection of dancers,
as they perform difficult steps and movements with ease, and without
the air of awkwardness that has typified, for so long, the English
dancer when faced with anything novel or adventurous.
In my view, this is one of the best , if not the best, examples
of well-staged and brilliantly executed dancing to be seen on
the stage today
The leading man - I almost wrote lead dancer, for he is both
- Chris Jarvis, is one of the most exciting personalities I have
seen in a long time.
He plays Ren McCormack, the boy who turns the town upside down,
and, as such, has the lions share of the dancing, which
he performs superbly and believably.
He is a masculine dancer in the best sense of the word. Whereas,
in so many modern musicals like Grease
or Saturday Night
Fever, the leading man/dancer, while expert, gives out an
aura of sinuous, almost feminine charm, Jarvis is just the opposite.
He gives his part muscle and a down to earth male sexiness, which
is fantastic to watch. He is called upon to perform difficult
physical and gymnastic steps, which he accomplishes with an insouciance
that is incredible, and a delight to see and in the more balletic
areas of the choreography, he excels there as well.
If that were not enough, he sings and acts well, displaying a
persona of male cocksureness tinged with diffidence which makes
his character, and the actions he is called upon to perform for
purpose of plot, seem natural and credible.
I would love to see him in a Jerome Robbins choreographed
role, in, for example, a revival of On the Town, where his talents
could be exploited more fully.
His love interest, Ariel, daughter of the town minister, is also
beautifully sung and danced by Rachel Wooding and is a perfect
partner for him.
She, too, has a style all her own and her performance, of a feisty
girl restricted by the towns Puritanism, was sexy without
being vulgar to coin a phrase.
She also sings well, although her higher notes were not helped
by the inevitable over-amplification which has now become the
norm with modern musicals.
As is typical in American teen flicks, she has three
contrasting girlfriends - Rusty (Cassidy Janson), Urleen (Julie
McKenna) and Wendy Jo (Lucy Newton) - who go through the evening
commenting on the action like a Greek chorus and very effective
they are too.
Of the three, Rusty is the more dominant role, and she is played
with great sense of comedy by Janson, whom I remember being rather
disparaging about in Brenda Bly - well, I am not now.
Her opposite number, and best mate of the hero, Willard Hewitt
was played by Taylor Woods, whose efforts to learn to dance under
the tuition of Chris Jarvis and the cast, was one of the comedy
high spots of the evening. He is, in fact, an excellent dancer
in his own right, as he proved in the ensembles and his other
The high spirits of the youngsters were contrasted with the more
sober scenes in the ministers house where his wife - sensitively
played by Marilyn Cutts - is troubled by the bigot her husband
has become. Craig Pinder, as the minister, plays him with a sufficient
sense of self-doubt to make his subsequent recantation and approval
of the High School dance believable.
The rest of the grown-ups, if one could call them that, had little
to do but disapprove of the goings on by the children.
The exception was Jens mother (played by Verity Bentham),
who, apart from looking old enough to have been his sister, supported
his rebellion and had an effective number to help her do so.
Paul Kerryson pulled the dancing and dramatics seamlessly together,
helped by Kentaurs austere set, which mainly consisted of
steel pillars which acted as ladders, stairs and supports for
the bridges on which part of the action was staged, leaving room
for the energetic dance routines on the stage below.
This production is avowedly a tour, but one hopes that it will
subsequently come to rest in the West End, where it certainly
Talent, as is displayed in this production by the principals
and ensemble alike, deserves that accolade. I look forward to
revisiting it there in its second or third year when it has become
a fixture and is footloose no more.
Footloose Stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter
Bobbie, based on the screenplay by Dean Pitchford. Music, Tom
Snow; Lyrics, Dean Pitchford; Additional music by Eric Carmen,
Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman.
Director, Paul Kerryson; Set Designer, Kentaur; Costume designer,
Andy Edwards; Lighting, Chris Ellis; Sound, Clement Rawling; Choreographer,
Karen Bruce; Musical director, Chris Hatt.
CAST: Chris Jarvis; Rachel Wooding; Marilynn Cutts; Craig Pinder;
Verity Bentham; Richard Taylor Woods; Taylor James; Cassidy Janson;
Julie McKenna; Lucy Newton; Ian Gareth Jones; Tim Newman; Jennifer
Meldrum; Guy Oliver Watts; Alan Bradshaw; Peter Edbrook; Sally
Bayes; Joey Bryans; Anthony Cranwell; Amanda Coutts; Joe Van Haeften;
Melanie Housley; Craig McDermott; Johanna Stanton; Gemma Whitelam;
Kate Alexander; Joseph Prouse.
Produced by Mark Goucher - Michael Rosso Ltd, for Footloose 2004
Ltd, Clear Channel Entertainment, Tristan Baker Productions, in
arrangement with Theatre Royal, Plymouth.
New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1QG.
Monday, June 21 Saturday, June 26, 2004. Evenings: Mon
- Sat: 7.30pm; Matinees: Thurs. and Sat: 2.30pm. Box Office: 0870