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Footloose - The Musical

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2 Reviews

Footloose is only one of a batch of dance-movies-turned-musicals from the late-'90s, but it's probably the best. Unlike Fame, it gives an audience the movie songs it expects to hear, and unlike Saturday Night Fever, it complements those songs with newly written, honest-to-goodness book songs that support the plot (written by Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow, who wrote songs for the original film). Like the 1984 Kevin Bacon film that inspired it, Footloose follows the story of Ren (Jeremy Kushnier), who moves with his mother (Catherine Cox) to a small town where dancing is prohibited by law. Teens will be teens, of course, so Ren ends up at odds with the town and especially the local minister, Reverend Moore (Stephen Lee Anderson). Along the way, the characters sing familiar songs from the movie ("The Girl Gets Around," "Holding Out for a Hero," "Let's Hear It for the Boy," "Almost Paradise," and of course the title tune), but the new songs are enjoyable as well. Footloose: The Musical doesn't exactly break new ground, but it's a good listen, particularly if you like the movie. The booklet includes a detailed synopsis, photos, and full lyrics.

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      08.11.2006 01:26
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      A retro show for young and old... bringing to life the movie shown two decades ago

      FOR THE SECOND TIME around I watched Footloose( The Musical) in the Opera House, Belfast, Northern Ireland early this year. The show did a limited engagement around the UK and had a week run in Northern Ireland. I watched the production for the first time in 2005 prior to my trip to Belfast at the Meralco Theater, Manila, Philippines.

      This is an adaptation of the film (of the same title) released in 1984 starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose was one of the classical-teenage films like Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, Fame and Grease. It was first adapted for the Broadway production in 1998 and had its debut UK tour in 2004 which could be compared to other screen-to-stage productions such as Fame and Saturday Night Fever, or even the newly musical late this year, Dirty Dancing.

      THE STORY revolves in the life of a teenager, Ren McCormack who happened to moved out (together with his mother) from the metropolitan city of Chicago (USA) to a quiet town of Bomont (Hicksville, USA). Being young and vulnerable, Ren has his own personal problems to solve - dealing with the situation that his father abandoned him. Despite his difficulties to the new environment, he carries on his passion in dancing – trying his best to convince his new friends or even the entire community of Bomont to embrace again ‘dancing’ as part of their lives. Unfortunately, Ren encountered a big resistance from the community, especially from the local church minister, Reverend Shaw Moore who happened to have a beautiful daughter, Ariel. Ariel is rebellious, quite popular and flirting with one of the bad boys, Chuck. But she also fantasises the newcomer in town, Ren. Naturally, the attraction becomes deeper and their relationship begins to blossom. At the end, they find out that they have in common: longing for a father’s attention, a loss in the family, and a yearning for freedom that youth could have.

      TECHNICALLY, the production was able to capture the interest of the audience both in the Opera House and Meralco Theater. Frankly, I like the overall production in Belfast compared to the one held in Manila. Watching it for the second time gave me the chance to have another closer look of the different characters and how each one of them act to make the production interesting, dynamic and lively. The orchestra made the musical more breathtaking and made every song wonderful to hear - as you feel you are part of the cast singing on stage! The Manila production was not really powerful due to the fact that it did not use a live orchestra and also the venue was quite big and not having a good sound system for such musical. However, there were good reviews in the Manila productions for the lead actors/actresses especially who played the roles of Ren, Ariel and even to the three close friends of Ariel. Most of the members of the Manila cast were ‘young’ and not veteran stage performers, but the production went well for two weeks run. The direction and choreography were perfectly executed by the cast, especially the dance steps where you could feel the energy and vibrant, which I could personally say that they are still ‘in’ or have ‘charisma’ to both young and old generations.

      Both venues were able to transform the stage into a real-to-life back draft of the story: church, gym, school, gas station/garage which contributes to the success of the musical. In particular, I loved the scenes of Ren and Ariel while watching the train to pass by, and eventually they sung the song, ‘Almost Paradise’ romantically. The rest of the characters were also fascinating especially for the roles of the three close friends of Ariel – backing her up all the time, including a classmate of Ren who became his buddy. Also, the colourful costumes were perfectly done which reminded me of the 1980’s fashion. Well, most importantly, the show highlighted the 80’s popular songs: Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It for the Boy, Holding out for a Hero, and of course the theme song, Footloose.

      The musical has a lot to offer especially for the young generation. It tackles teenage problems relating to parenting and peers pressure. Indirectly, drugs and alcohol were also part of the story which is the main reason why Reverend Moore and the rest of the elders of the community decided to ban all dancing and parties. It started five years ago when his only son, together with other friends died from a car accident after a dance party. It also about teenage rebellion – young people who disregard community rules that hinder them to be free; and also those young children who want liberty and independence, away from their parents’ never-ending house rules.

      ON THE OTHER HAND, ‘Footloose’ is about our failures and successes in life. These are the keys to make our lives interesting and meaningful. Failures make us strong and drive us to move on - to be more confident to face another hurdle and use it to achieve a higher level of living; while successes give us the adrenalin to continue with our dreams and share whatever rewards from it to other people.

      ON A PERSONAL NOTE, I loved ‘Footloose’ very much, maybe because the lead character (Ren) was able to show some of my personal traits - happy-go-lucky person, adventurous, with full of determination to do things worth pursuing, and love to dance! Finally, even though the show was completed its tour around Britain, I still recommend to buy the soundtrack of the musical which gives the complete recording of the show from start to finish – as if you are listening to its non-stop live performance. Or maybe the DVD format of the film. But frankly, the live-stage musical production could not be compared to the original story on film having different medium of productions, thus brings different outcomes and impacts to the audience. Surprisingly, I loved them both!

      ***
      Some basic facts about the shows:

      The 2006 UK tour/ show was directed and choreographed by Olivier award winner, Karren Bruce; and the cast the includes: Derek Hough (as Ren), Lorna Want (Ariel), Reverend Moore (Stephen McGann), and Johnny Shentall (Chuck). The tour visited the following areas from January-March 2006: Cardiff, Glasgow, Southhampton, Birmingham, Stoke, Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh, Bristol, Woking, and Plymouth.

      The 2005 Manila Production was directed by Chari Arespacochaga, James Laforteza/Rene Sagaran (choreographers), Kalila Aguilos (costume designer/stylist); and the cast includes: Jay-R and Jonard Yanzon (Ren), Iya Villania (Ariel), Reverend Moore (Audie Gemora), and Vi Moore (Agot Isidro).

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      • More +
        11.03.2006 08:44
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        How musicals are meant to be

        I walked out of the theatre having seen Footloose wishing I could go straight back in and watch it again. If you were after a quickie summary of the show, that’s it. It’s good. Really good.

        When I danced, back in the day, I did numerous ballets and musicals, but Footloose is always a fond memory for me because it was the last one I did before I quit dancing to, um, ace my A Levels. The only version I knew apart from ours was the Kevin Bacon film one, so when I heard the stage musical was touring the UK, I immediately logged on and got a ticket.

        A gas station. A church. A school gym. They’re not the most normal of settings for a musical, but they all crop up here. The story’s a well known one – slick city guy moves from Chicago to a little place in the middle of nowhere, and is frustrated by the town’s rules imposed by the minister – no singing, no dancing - no having fun really. Getting some of the local kids on his side, he vows to change this and starts by wooing the minister’s daughter. Not such a good idea, when it’s her father who’s in charge here, now is it? Fights break out, words are said and people are hurt, but in the end, something miraculous happens, and both sides come to some agreement. It’s a typical B-list musical, and I call it this because it’s one only usually watched by dedicated musical viewers – not the Cats or Lion King families go to once a year so they can smugly rattle on about how cultured they are for the next 364 days. It has songs people know – thanks in part to Texaco adverts unless I’m much mistaken – and songs people don’t. The storyline is usually vaguely familiar to the audience, though most can’t recall the details. In short, it’s a show you know you want to see in many cases, without actually knowing what you’ll be seeing when you get there.

        There’s a line in the film where the minister’s wife tells her husband that he’s great at group sermons, but it’s the one-on-one ones that could use some work, and I think the same is true for the numbers in this film. The ones with a large chunk of the cast singing and dancing together – Footloose, Holding Out For a Hero and Let’s Hear It For The Boy - were fantastic. Lively, beautifully costumed, well choreographed and full of energy. The solos and duets, less so. Some of the performers had great voices, but something about the lead guy just wasn’t right. He was loud enough, I suppose, and could carry a tune, but seemed to fall down when it came to enunciating. This meant that it was all but impossible to make out the words of the (usually less well known) songs he sang alone. The lead girl, on the other hand, was great – adorable, clearly spoken and with an annoyingly good voice. The remaining cast were fine verging on good, though the American accents faded from time to time (but interestingly less so when it came to the non-Brits among the cast). One poor guy had obviously been given the role of gymnast among a very non-acrobatic group, and was cavorting around the stage during the last few numbers, displaying abysmal back-flips that worryingly got quite loud rounds of applause. The casting was quite odd – the show includes a high school senior class (6th form aged) and some parents and teachers, though the age gap between the two groups was no where near approaching a generation. Now it’s understandable that they’d have 25 year olds playing teenagers, but it did surprise me they hadn’t seemed to have gone for anyone in the 40 plus age group to play their parental figures.

        The dances were well-choreographed without being extremely technical, though I suppose they need all the help they can get – the way they’re doing the shows here, there’s a 5pm matinee rather than the usual 2:30 one, and this is followed by an 8pm evening show, giving the hard-working lot a mere 30mins in between to catch their breath. I know I’m nit-picking, but in a way it’s only because the show was so good. Since that can be summed up in one sentence, or even a couple of words (See it!) I kinda have to talk about the different parts of it. And since I’m doing that, I have to be truthful about the way I saw things…

        The stage crew did a great job because there seemed to be more prop and scenery changes than costume ones. The furniture they brought on was minimal each time, but still managed to set the scene of the, um, scene. The school hall in the last scene was especially well done, with row after row of enchanting fairy lights lighting the stage. The last musical I saw, Fosse, had cool black costumes all the way through. Not so with this one, which had the cast in colourful getups, from casual school clothes to party dresses. No 2 performers ever had the same attire, but there were very definite themes in most of the numbers, which looked really good on stage.

        The show is touring the UK at the moment. Tickets cost from £7, programmes are £3 and ice-creams £2, at least where we are (though I’ve a growing suspicion those latter two will always add up to a fiver these days, no matter where you are). The show was 2 ½ hours long, 20 mins of which was an interval. The first half had 9 numbers, the second 7, and both had short spurts of dialogue linking the routines together, though the focus was very definitely on singing and dancing, rather than narrative. My favourite bit was the ending where they performed an encore style medley of the best songs from the show, with both my favourites among them.

        All in all, a top show. Go see. Go on. Right now.

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