REVIEW: Footloose at the Theatre Royal, Brighton

Ok, so the American accents might have been a bit shaky at times, sometimes sounding like the characters would be more at home in Dublin than West Virginia.

Footloose at the Theatre Royal, Brighton. Luke Baker as Ren McCormack with the cast in the background.
Footloose at the Theatre Royal, Brighton. Luke Baker as Ren McCormack with the cast in the background.

But it was easy to overlook the linguistics thanks to the high-octane, highly entertaining performance of Footloose that was given at the Theatre Royal, Brighton last night.

The first show in a week-long run, the action takes place in a small town where dancing has been banned, much to the irritation of the younger generation.

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The overbearing Rev Moore (Nigel Lister) wants to keep the moral compass of the town’s youth on the straight and narrow, in the wake of an accident where four teenagers were killed in a car crash.

But the arrival of Ren (Luke Baker) from out-of-town, marks the beginning of a backlash against the reverend’s authoritarian reach over all aspects of life, culminating in a bid for a dance party to be staged at the high school.

While there are very few sets employed on stage, the action is ever-changing as the actors play all the music for the songs live on stage.

The multi-talented performers are also all adept dancers, and it’s great to see each of them drift on and off the two on-stage keyboards, head over to pick up an oboe, complete a complex dance routine, sing a song, then pick up the trumpet for a show-stopping finale.

Stand-out performances came from Hannah Price, as Ariel, who belted out the show’s 80s hits, while Joanna Sawyer was fantastic as the ditsy and endearing Rusty.

The ‘big names’ in the show are Gareth Gates, who plays nice-but-dim Willard, who makes up for what he lacks in intelligence with savvy life-lessons learned from his ‘mama’.

He gives a confident performance, which even sees him stripping down to a pair of denim hotpants and grinding around on the bonnet of a car.

Slightly more subdued is the role of Vi Moore/Principal Clarke, taken on by Maureen Nolan – one of the Irish clan.

Her performance is assured, and it was especially lovely to see her joining in with the finale dance moves so enthusiastically, but I did feel her voice was slightly overshadowed by others when she was a part of duets.

Thanks to the hard work and adept role sharing of the 17 principal cast members, Footloose has the energy of a big-budget West End show with at least double the number of performers.

And with plenty of well-known hits to keep your toes tapping, you can’t fail to have a great time.

For tickets, call 0844 871 7650 (booking fees apply).

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