Like the original Kevin Bacon film, so much of Dean Pitchard’s stage adaptation of Footloose feels so wrong and yet it feels so right.
Pity the woman charged with choreographing a show in which dancing is outlawed. Ironically, director Karen Bruce’s energetic routines are the production’s greatest asset, bouncing on their white sneakers with all of the strength and exertion of a workout dvd. With one finger in its belt loop throughout, Bruce’s choreography is seldom more than one cotton-pickin’ minute away from a country square dance and her high-kicking, crotch thrusting ensemble numbers are instant crowd pleasers.
Dressed in K-Mart’s finest, the cast are a convincing slice of middle-America. Adam C. Booth plays the lead with enthusiasm, belting pop-rock solos and commanding the ensemble with authority. As preacher’s daughter Ariel, Lorna Want is both sweet and sexualised, opening “I Need a Hero” with an eerie calmness before setting it alight. Steven Pinder’s sanctimonious Reverend Shaw is disappointingly held back by laboured lyrics whilst wife Karen Ascoe excels in her quiet, thoughtful performance of the somewhat Sondheim number, “Can You Find It in Your Heart?”
Whilst the production’s cast and choreography are tight, its book and original material are altogether more loose. Footloose gives Sister Act a run for its collection plate in terms of religious moralising and is full of songs which seem recognisable at the time but are completely forgettable afterwards. Most of the book’s jokes land with an unsubtle thud and it is not until much into the second half that it uncovers a heart beneath its flashy dances and jukebox playlist.
Despite its weaknesses, Footloose does what it needs to: everyone enjoys a girls' night out, even if they don’t remember much of it the next morning.