The musical Footloose was written by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford and some additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman. It was based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford. Anyone who grew up with the ’80s would be not only familiar with the movie, but could probably sing along to a number of the songs and still remember many of the dance moves (or at least the video clips of those hit songs).
The challenge of a creative team and cast taking on a popular movie of the 1980s is whether they decide to offer a completely unique interpretation or aim to reproduce the most iconic moments of the movie. As a teenager in the 1980s I have very fond memories of this movie and admit I went in with certain expectations of not only the stage adaptation but also this particular interpretation.
The immediate, and lasting, impact of OCPAC’s Footloose is the high level of energy from the entire cast throughout the show. This is probably where OCPAC has truly excelled in this production. The cast commit to their characters through the whole show and their energy and enthusiasm is infectious.
Remy Noonan has done an excellent job with the choreography. Some of the best dance moves of the movie have been incorporated and fans of the movie will immediately recognise them. The song ‘Footloose’ originally had a number of close ups of feet dancing, which doesn’t necessarily translate well to stage adaptation. Noonan has added some bigger choreography that works well on the stage and will appeal to a wider audience who may not be familiar with all the quirky foot work from the original film clip.
Lighting sound by Peter Amesbury works well for the most part, although there were a few moments when principal performers were left in shadows and difficult to locate when speaking from the back of the stage. Sound design by Marcello Lo Ricco gave a balanced sound and managed to get over the some ambient noise within the theatre. A few lines were lost when enthusiastic performers were yelling.
Set design by Thomas Fellowes was suitable. Although minimalist in design, the set itself appeared to be of quality and quickly established the scenes. The minimalist set did allow for fast scene changes and a show that flowed smoothly.
Costume design by Emma Lockey was well done, recreating not only some typical ’80s fashions, but also some memorable images from the movie.
Joseph Spanti plays Ren McCormack, the role that turned a young Kevin Bacon into a teenage heartthrob in the ’80s. While Spanti doesn’t look anything like Bacon, he makes up for any physical differences in charm and talent and is well suited to the role. Shannen Alyce plays the reverend’s wayward daughter, Ariel Moore, with a lovely balance of good daughter charm and bad girl sassiness that endears her character to the audience.
Adriana Tuscone is delightfully charming as Rusty and Warren Logan as Willard is awkwardly loveable. The pair have a lovely chemistry together and are not unlike the original Rusty and Willard in the movie.
Geordie Worland gives a convincing performance as the stern and over-protective Reverend Shaw Moore and Elise Moorhouse is solid as his wife. The final sermon message could easily be slowed in delivery just a little to give a greater impact.
The show is well directed by Jordan Barr. The choice to have the cast face the audience and not look directly at the person delivering the message was an interesting one. Initially I didn’t like the lack of connection between the characters and felt it reduced the tension, but after a few scenes it seemed to make more sense as effectively this is what was happening to the townsfolk of Bomont – passively being told what to do, not a lot of direct communication taking place and noone really willing to talk things through.
Musical direction by Rosie Blyth is excellent. The favourite songs from the movie are managed well and will appeal to fans. There is no tractor scene in the stage adaptation and instead ‘I Need A Hero’ is given a considerable makeover. Performed by Shannen Alyce as Ariel Moore, the song starts as a slower, almost sultry, ballad and then kicks in to the big power number audiences will be expecting. For those who fondly remember the original Bonnie Tyler version, this number does have a different feel but Alyce delivers a lot of emotion and it works. The floor was literally shaking by the foot tapping going on behind me in the audience. It’s worth a ticket just for this one number.
There were some pitch problems amongst the cast at times, particular in the top notes, and in some ensemble numbers the melody seemed a little lost amongst the harmony, but the high energy of their performances meant it was almost all forgiven. The ‘Footloose Mega Mix’ provided a fabulously fun closing to the show.
While the performances aren’t faultless, Footloose is a really enjoyable night of theatre and no doubt the cast will settle into their roles with a few more performances. Those who remember the original movie will not be disappointed by this stage adaptation and the great dance numbers and inspiring story line of kids changing their world will connect with a new and younger audience.
For more information and tickets: http://www.ocpac.com.au/