Footloose – Springers Amateur Operatic Society, Civic Theatre – Chelmsford.
Footloose is best known from the 1984 film and in 1998 it was released as a Musical on Broadway and has been a popular choice for amateur societies since.
The music written by Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford is a joy to listen to and the Band under the baton of Ian Myers did it credit.
The show started in 1984 glory with ra-ra skirts and neon colours in a Chicago nightclub and with some fabulous choreography courtesy of Helen Arbor it exploded onto the stage. The action then takes us to Bomont where ‘Dancing is against the law’.
The story pivots around Ren McCormack who struggles with his father’s abrupt departure and a constrictive new life in Bomont. Jon Newman as Ren found much of the torment that he goes through and tackled the dance part of the character well. He was paired well against Mae Pettigrew as Ariel, daughter of the Towns Reverend who is a rebellious and troubled teenager.
Colin Shoard as her father Reverend Moore delivered a passionate performance as a man torn between his fear and his love, while his wife Vi Moore played by Deborah Anderson, gave a strong thought-provoking performance as a woman ‘Learning to be Silent’. This is one of my personal favourite numbers in the show and Mae, Deborah and Catherine Gregory, as Ren’s mother Ethel, did not disappoint with this rendition.
I love the show and I enjoyed this version but I have to comment on the lack of diction which at times made it difficult to hear both the vocals during the songs and the dialogue. If there was one word of advice I could give this company was to annunciate better so we can enjoy every single moment of their performances.
Much of the lighter element of the show comes from Willard played by Daniel Shultz and Rusty played by Alexandra Philips. This was a lovely pairing and both worked well together in fact “Let’s Hear it for the Boy’ in Act Two was my highlight of the show. Alexandra has a fabulous voice and especially when blended with Nicola Myers as Urleen and Kat McKeon as Wendy Jo, the trio sang well and delivered some great harmonies. However, at times I felt perhaps the sound was not quite on par as it sounded very ‘shouty’ which was a real shame. Daniel grew into the character of Williard throughout the show, I felt he could have perhaps taken him a little further towards the simple country lad but he came into his own with his backing group in my other favourite number in the show – “Mama Says!”
I am not a fan of big scene changes and I felt there were times when these could have been done on an open stage as audiences today are used to seeing them happen as part of the action rather than during a dark void but I have great respect for all who work behind the scenes and appreciate we can all criticise without knowing the circumstances.
As a big dance show, this is always a challenge for any amateur society who traditionally have a dancing cast with different levels of ability. It was clear that Helen Arbor worked extremely hard with this cast to deliver strong dance routines and from a choreography point of view, I loved her concept of “I’m free” with the different groups doing different steps – like a singing round.
Every member of the cast looked like they were having a complete ball on stage and it did come across to the audience. I’m not sure if there are still tickets available but if you can get a ‘golden ticket’ to see this show – go and I am sure you will leave with a smile on your face as we did.