Ever wanted to see Gareth Gates in a pair of gold hot pants? Here’s your chance.
Footloose: The Musical has opened at London’s Peacock Theatre following a successful UK tour. A revival of the 1998 Broadway production – itself based on the classic 1984 film – it tells the tale of city boy Ren, forced to move from Chicago to the backwater American town of Bomont where dancing is banned. Faced with the impending high school graduation – and lack of prom – Ren makes it his duty to overturn the town’s law in time for the seniors to have a dance.
It has a cautious start. The opening song and dance number feels a bit underwhelming, especially compared with the treats that lie in store later on in the show, while the pace of the first half feels a bit slow. We were also struggling to hear the vocals during the first couple of songs – the singers’ voices were loud enough but lacking in clarity, so a lot of the words were lost. This issue seemed to be corrected pretty swiftly however, and from the moment the pace picked up, we were thoroughly entertained.
This production initially seems a bit unusual in that the two headline names – Gareth Gates and Maureen Nolan – feature in supporting roles, with less-well-known actors starring in the leading roles. It’s not an issue though, as Joshua Dowen as Ren and Hannah Price as Ariel shine brightly throughout, both being talented all-round performers.
There is plenty here to enjoy. All the songs you would expect to hear are present and correct – Let’s Hear It For the Boy, Holding Out For a Hero and, of course, Footloose – are all well-performed and impressively choreographed. The final number, a reprise of the opening song with some evidently technically-demanding choreography, was rapturously received and looked pretty exhausting – by the end, we felt tired for the performers. In a good way.
Then, of course, there’s the Gareth Gates reveal. Without wanting to give anything away, it’s certainly quite a moment.
It’s not an entirely flawless production, however. The pacing seems a bit off – the second half is great, but the first act takes longer than we’d have liked to warm up. We lost the meaning of some of the first few songs due to the vocals being a bit unclear. Some of the song distribution was a little disappointing, too – this production features some hugely talented vocalists who only have a brief moment to shine, while other less-capable singers are given longer in the spotlight. Granted, there was only so much artistic licence that could be taken in this situation, but there were some performers we’d have liked to have heard more from.
None of these are major issues however and certainly don’t detract from Footloose being an entertaining night out. It delivers a fun reimagining of the 1980s classic – a slice of high-camp nostalgia which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Gay Times gives Footloose – 4/5
More information can be found here.