Footloose, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Mark Goucher Ltd.Tristan Baker, Jason Haigh-Ellery and Wimpole Theatre
Karen Bruce (Director/Choreographer), Mike Dixon and Chris Egan (Musical supervision), Julian Reeve (Musical Director), James Whiteside (Lighting), Gareth Owen (Sound)
Max Milner (Ren), Steven Pinder (Preacher), Lorna Want (Ariel), Matt Willis (Chuck), Karen Ascoe (Preacher's wife), Jodie Jacobs (Rusty), Giovanni Spano (Willard), Tanya Robb (Wendy-Jo), Keisha Amponsa Banson (Urleen)
Running time

Snap, Crackle and Pop, this production of ‘Footloose’ grabbed your attention from the moment that the lights beamed out into the audience until the finale. Starting with and finishing with energetic dance routines, this was a production that had a lot to enjoy and admire. Often described as "the dance musical" this show had a lot more going for it than just dance.

Directed and choreographed by Karen Bruce, this is a fast moving show in every sense of the word. Karen has used all aspects of production to make this a first class theatrical experience with the appreciative crowd responding with enthusiasm. Some shows seem to be swallowed up by the Edinburgh Playhouse but ‘Footloose’ was a feast for eyes and ears.

Based on a true story, a teenager moves from the city to small town and small-minded America. Following a tragic accident in which four teenagers, including the preacher’s son, are killed, Dancing is banned, as it leads to all kinds of social and moral problems. High school students have accepted the laws of their elders led by the school principal and of course the still grieving preacher. This is the story of how the kid from the city challenges the norms of the town.

While for marketing reasons Matt Willis from ‘Busted’ and now a TV name is headlined in the publicity, the male lead is Max Milner as the City Kid (Ren) and despite his limited credits he rises to the challenge with a distinctive singing voice, good acting skills and is out front with dance moves set at a blistering speed.

If you remember, Footloose as a film then dance routines may have had several ‘takes’ while this had to be right on the night every night.

Lorna Want, as the potentially wayward daughter of the preacher (Ariel), puts in a very strong performance vocally and dancing in a part she has done before in 2006. Steven Pinder as the preacher captures the strength and vulnerability of the preacher/father as he tries to keep the community on what he sees as the right lines while not coping well with his daughter’s wish to live her own life. While always associating Steven as Max Farnham in ‘Brookside’ this performance demonstrated a wide range of his skills.

There are also big performances from Ariel’s girl friends and the emergence of the slow, naïve Willard (Giovanni Spano) as a dancer and boyfriend to Rusty adds humour to the show. Matt Willis as the town bad boy is mean and menacing.

Occasionally the show takes a breather to carry the story and Karen Pascoe as the preacher’s wife has  the voice of reason and one of the most poignant songs ‘Can you find it in your heart?’ which is later reprised by her husband when he has an almost instant conversion to the young people’s point of view.

It is difficult to pick out individuals in such a good all-round cast coupled together with a band that raises your expectations right from that opening bar. However, the guitar playing of Lewis Osborne is worthy of a mention. The sets were good, but the lighting was really effective so hats off to all the creative team as well as the performers.

Footloose ends as it starts with a high energy repeat of the well-known numbers and Matt Willis uses his band experience to good effect in what is an encore which brought a large part of the audience to its feet - the rest were probably exhausted just watching the cast.

Show times

Runs to 19 February, Mon-Thurs, 7-30pm; Fri and Sat. 5pm, 8.30pm