Brett Herriot Review

Footloose, The Edinburgh Playhouse, Review:

Footloose has a solid heart !

*** 3 Stars

It’s hard to believe its approaching forty years since Kevin Bacon created the iconic role of Ren McCormack in the genre redefining movie “Footloose” telling the tale of Ren who moves to a small town in Texas called Beaumont from Chicago. There he finds a town and its people still reeling from the tragedy that befell it a couple of years before, which particularly affects the local reverend who institutes a ban on booze, drugs and dancing. Youthful rites of passage for a prom meets authority in a clash that must make them both face up to the loss, redemption and the realities of life that loss causes pain but it can’t stop life from moving on.

The films screenplay by Dean Pitchford was adapted for the stage in 1998 and the musical made its debut in London in 2006 and went on to enjoy several UK tours. Now Selladoor, Runaway Entertainment and Jason Haigh Ellery have launched a brand new UK tour for 2022 and its now enjoying a week long run at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

This production delivers a mixed bag, while the performances are excellent and the small tight cast give buckets of energy it’s the creative decisions that take the shine off. It appears Selladoor productions are starting to over kill with adapting musicals for actor/musician parts. In some productions seeing the performer suddenly whip out an instrument and play it while continuing the lyrics and acting can actually work, sadly its less effective in Footloose, seeing two guys with guitars strapped to them as they jump a skipping rope looks a little strange if not overly gimmicky. The performers are supported by Musical Director Mike Nichols on Bass and Bob Carr on a digital drum kit set high above the stage.

Sara Perks costume design is spot on the money bringing to life a plethora of 80’s couture with details to knock the eye out. Sadly the same doesn’t apply to her Set design. The set is simply tiny, and looks dwarfed on the Playhouse stage, which has been heavily brought in with swathes of black curtains which easily half the available stage space. UK tours have to fit a range of venues but this particular set does a disservice to the audience in the Playhouse.  To many times a curtain located behind the keyboard station was left open and we could see the cast waiting for an entrance or the technical crew going about their business back stage which spoils the illusion of theatre.

In this production it’s the performances that count and director Racky Plews has an excellent pool of talent to draw from. Joshua Hawkins turns in a skilled and high energy take on the title of role of Ren McCormack giving shades of innocence, frustration along with some fantastic hi energy dance moves. Jake Quickenden takes on the comedy role with “Willard Hewitt” he proves he has the voice and skill as a musical theatre actor but it didn’t take long for his clothes to be ripped off to reveal  the chiselled body underneath. Special mention must go to Holly Ashton in the role of both “Vi Moore and Principal Clark”. Ashton’s performance of “Can you find it in your heart” it’s both emotional and honest and a high point that really pushes the story of the show forward.  The same acclaim goes to Darren Day in the role of Rev Shaw Moore a man conflicted between his faith, sense of loss and failure to understand his pain doesn’t outweigh that of those around him. It’s an accomplished performance with a honey soaked vocal to boot.

This production of Footloose has a solid heart and delivers much for the ticket price but the small set and tech issues and the choice to use an actor musician style run against it but it still makes for a fabulous night of musical theatre and you can’t help getting to your feet for the mega mix and cutting loose to Footloose!

Footloose, Edinburgh Playhouse runs until Saturday 23rd July for tickets go to: Footloose Tickets | Edinburgh Playhouse in Edinburgh | ATG Tickets

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