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Footloose (Stage Experience- Manchester)

It's the annual Stage Experience in Manchester and Glenn Meads and Sol White Wood are both impressed with their production of ''Footloose.''

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Every Summer for the last 10 years, Stage Experience have been impressing regional audiences with their high energy productions of well known hit shows. Last year we were transported to Rydell High in Grease.

Sam Berrie and the cast of Footloose.
© Kate Goerner

This year, the young cast are cutting loose, with this musical adaptation of the celebrated 80's hit which starred Kevin Bacon. I have always had a soft spot for this show, as it is a fun, hit packed piece of fluff but it also celebrates youth - which is a really apt way for Stage Experience to mark their 10th anniversary.

The plot follows bad Ren who moves to a new town, in order to make a fresh start. This walkman wearing dude (in the movie) is in for a shock though, as rock music, along with dancing is banned by the local pastor - due to a car accident involving youngsters from the town. So, in the great tradition of musicals, Ren sets out to show the locals how to have fun, without being a threat to society.

With songs such as "Let's Hear It For The Boy" - you don't need to be a genius to realise how all of this turns out. But the joy with this show is seeing what the cast can do with the material. My experience prior to this, is that the cast often take the material to another level.

The Stage Experience performers are no exception. The combination of Michael Twigg and Rebecca Johnson as Rev Shaw and Vi Moore is winning, as these two have genuine talent and you cannot take your eyes off them; they give the musical a sense of gravitas. Sam Berrie's Ren has just the right amount cockiness required and Abi Gibson's Ariel is as divine as her stage parents.

Michael Gardiner is only 17 but his Willard is a real crowd pleaser. He looks delighted to be performing as does Rebecca Bolton as Rusty - who also gives a great turn. I enjoyed Caitlin Goman too, as she makes more of her small roles as Urleen than is on the page.

Sol White Wood, my co-critic, aged 12 - thought the show was excellent, considering the cast only had two weeks to put it together. He described the show as "smooth" and thought that Michael Gardiner stole the show.

Rachel Catherall's choreography is excellent, as it gives the ensemble a chance to shine and they do just that. David McNeill can be proud as he has injected the pace into this piece that it needs and the hard working cast rise to the challenges set for them in an unbelievably short amount of time.

This is proof if needed, that Manchester does indeed have talent and it's at the Palace Theatre and Footloose is well worth seeing this weekend.

Footloose is at the Palace Theatre until 9 August.