Footloose, King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Review:
**** 4 Stars
One of Edinburgh’s oldest amateur theatre companies know locally as “The Bohs” are back at the Kings with there annual production this time it’s the 80’s movie classic turned all dancing stage musical that gets the Boh’s treatment and in terms of performances they deliver in style.
Telling the Story of Ren McCormack (played by Ross MacPherson) a hip kid from suburban Chicago who following the death of his father moves with his mother Ethel (Ciara McBrien) to a small mid-American town in the middle of nowhere Called Bomont. The towns people of Bomont suffered a tragedy when following a car crashing off the local bridge killing the 4 passengers, the adults of Bomont lead by firebrand minister Reverend Shaw Moore (Christopher Cameron) ban dancing in all its forms and oppress the teenagers for what they believe is there own good. Ren rails against the injustice of it all as a passionate believer in the power of dance to heal the wounds. He is also set on a course of falling in love and going to head to head with the Towns tough guy “Chuck” (Andrew Knox) it’s a tale of love, hidden secrets, finding the best of yourself and ultimately facing your pain to move on and face life with the loss. Its indeed fertile ground for a musical.
The cast give a spirited performance with excellent stand out turns especially from Ross MacPherson in the lead role. He physically embodies the character with sharp physicality and excellent acting skills. His vocals also charm although occasionally its obvious he is being asked to sing out with his range but manages to pull it off by slipping into falsetto, his is a charming “Ren”. Felicity Thomas delivers a polished professional turn as Ren’s love interest “Ariel Moore” bring to life a girl who has lost her brother, got stuck with a bully of a boyfriend before finding love with Ren all while rediscovering her father once more, her’s is a performance to enjoy.
As the protagonist of the Angst, Christopher Cameron’s performance as Rev Shaw Moore is the lynchpin of the production and he truly excels, his acting skills are flawless as he takes the audience through the arc of the characters story from pious reverend to a father hurting and struggling to accept his son’s death and it almost costs him everything. Its an inspiring performance that you can’t helped but be moved by. Opposite Cameron is Cathy Geddie as Shaw’s wife “Vi Moore” she quite simply performs the most beautiful vocal of the evening with her performance of “Can you find it in your heart” it’s a true show stopper and Geddie is to be commended for such a gutsy performance.
There is also a strong supporting cast with Thomas McFarlane showing his comedy timing as “Willard Hewitt” rightly earning big laughs in all the right places. Andrew Knox also shows his versatility as bad boy “Chuck Cranston” and is endlessly watchable. All the leads are joined by a strong large ensemble to bring to life the both the big dance numbers in the show including the title track itself and the scenes set with in the church and local burger bar.
Speaking of dance Choreographer Dominic Lewis has given a wonderful fresh take to the movement side of the show, utilising the entire company with a deft hand, never relying on preconceived ideas so commonly associated with such a well know dance heavy musical. His Choreography during the finale megamix and bows is particularly capturing especially with the full company giving it there all.
Musical Director Finlay Turnbull as achieved great things vocally with the cast featuring a rich selection of 80’s hits, including Somebody’s Eyes, Holding out for a Hero and Almost Paradise in the show its crowd pleaser. However, the band need better balance from the sound department as the drums and percussion although played with excellence are clearly too loud, something which hopefully will settle down as the production beds in.
Where the production does come somewhat unstuck is in the technical elements, there were bad sound issues on the press night performance with microphones not coming up on cue, terrible feedback and the unbalanced sound from the pit, that combined with slightly longer than nessacary moments of lingering darkness to enable scene changes also pulled the show down. Its clear the crew were working hard with a set that may have been too clunky for the quickness needed to make the show truly slick. Given the tech issue the show should be a three-star affair but the quality of the performances pushes Footloose to four with ease.
Director Malcolm J Burnett who stepped into the director’s chair at short notice has truly show his skill in bringing such high calibre performances out from an extremely talented cast and given a couple of performances under the belt the tech elements will match up to that standard.
Overall the Bohs have delivered a fun and truly watchable evening of musical theatre with exceptional and impressively impassioned performances from the entire cast. So, everybody cut footloose and get to the kings!
The Bohemians Lyric Opera Company Present, “Footloose” King’s Theatre Edinburgh, Until Saturday 17th March for tickets go to https://www.capitaltheatres.com/footloose