Review: Footloose

Laura Peatman 15 March 2012


ADC Mainshow, 7.45pm, until Sat 24th March

The end of term approaches, bringing it with dissertation deadlines, the realisation of how little work you’ve done all term, and the oncoming storm of exam term. But never fear, the team behind CUADC’s Lent Term musical are here to help you cut footloose and kick off your Sunday shoes.

On the whole, they succeed. A hugely talented cast pulled off the combination of acting, singing and dancing in equal measures, and made the most of, let’s face it, a rather flimsy plot. There was no weak link in the singing, with principles and chorus alike giving strong vocal performances, although special mention must go to Will Karani and Rosie Brown who once again put their beautifully powerful voices to good use, and also showed great variety from previous roles I have seen them take on. ‘Footloose’ contains all those musical staples that we know and love: the uplifting chorus routines, the romantic duet, the comedy number… All of these were performed with great energy and skill, with ‘Holding out for a Hero’ and ‘Almost Paradise’ proving popular performances, as well as the final ‘Footloose’ medley which sparkled and got the audience’s feet tapping. However, the highlight for me had to be ‘Mama Says (You Can’t Back Down)’, which allowed Jack Mosedale as Willard to make the most of his role’s comic potential, perfectly pitching his slow, Southern drawl to get all the humour possible out of lines such as “Don’t ever eat anything bigger than your head”.

In fact Mosedale, along with the Rochelle Thomas (Rusty), Lucie Shorthouse (Urleen), and the rest of the supporting cast, in reality stole the show. They provided all the laughs and most of the fun, and were clearly enjoying themselves immensely: as presumably did costume designer Bella Lamplough Shields, as those 80s prom dresses were fabulous. Yet this should take nothing away from Mateo Oxley in the main role of Ren McCormack: in amateur productions of musicals, the dancing is usually the first thing to stand out as a weakness – and ‘Footloose’ riskily has dance at its core – but in Oxley the directors had found their ideal Ren. His acting was solid enough, but when the music started, his confident singing and fancy footwork were something else, as he swaggered and cartwheeled his way around the stage; and he also coped impressively with a wayward radio mic during a big solo dance number.

However – and this is an unfortunately big ‘however’ – there were issues. A couple of scene changes were painfully long. Microphones played up, with bursts of dialogue being too loud or too quiet (why, in a city full of the cleverest minds in the world, somebody can’t invent a radio mic that works flawlessly, I’ll never know). This became problematic particularly in the more poignant scenes between Rev Shaw and Vi, when the inability to hear everything that was being said meant some scenes dragged or felt disjointed. The fight scenes which should have been emotional high points had little impact, which was a shame given James Partridge’s (Chuck) solid performance through the show. The band, too, caused difficulties. Whilst they captured the 80s groove, the flautist needs to know how to tune his flute better, at times the sax suffered from the same issues. True, when the band were good, they were very good: but they then seemed to get carried away, drowning out some of the vocals.

Overall then, a highly entertaining yet at times flawed production. If you can overlook these issues and focus on the fun of the show and the talented cast who present it, this is a great evening out. I enjoyed myself a lot; but the scattering of small problems that permeated this production extinguished that extra spark that it should have had.

Laura Peatman