music makers

Pictures: Mark Senior


The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


It’s hard to imagine that this production of Footloose, the musical spawned out of the 1980s film of the same name with Kevin Bacon, being any more perfect than it is. Every facet and detail of the onstage production is matched technically and crafted to perfection.

Add to that my often one criticism of touring musical shows that being that of poor sound quality, but here the live music and vocal mix is the best there can be.

 There’s drive, clarity and energy in the sound and that’s matched with an exceptional cast who are also mostly playing the music whilst performing the play. It is an all singing, all dancing and all playing team who clearly are under the direction of some very skilled people and are backed up by a world class production team.

This is not only a fun musical but has some passages of true drama that are delivered with real empathy for their characters and fully enhance the story. There is a serious undertone to Footloose that has not been ignored and Director Racky Plews has found the perfect balance to contrast that against the high energy numbers.  

This gives the production great depth of a plot that follows Chicago city boy Ren, who moves to a small American town. He arrives as an outcast only to find that the fun there has been legally outlawed as dancing and rock music are now banned following a tragic accident.

The church reverend, played by the very experienced Darren Day is the principal killjoy to the town’s youth, but after revealing his own troubling past, Ren convinces him the error of his puritanical ways.

 Darren day

Darren Day as the troubled killjoy Reverend Shaw Moore

There are a few additions to the films original soundtrack and they work perfectly. In the number Holding out for a Hero it allowed eye candy Jake Quickenden to reveal much more of his body than his vocal range, much to the delight of his fans present on the night. He was also great fun in the number Mama Says while directing a few asides at the audience but never losing the thread of the play to pantomime.

There are a couple of moments of personal violence that in today’s climate might have needed rounding off, but as this is set in the 1980s, perhaps some leeway of that time is allowed.     

While there is a lot of punch and energy thoughtout there are some beautifully sung ballads that highlight the quality of the cast, musicians and the overall technical mix. One of those is Learning to be Silent, a three way ballad between Ren’s mother Ethel played by Anna Westlake, the Rev Moore’s wife, Vi, played by Holly Ashton and Lucy Munden as their daughter Ariel,  

Ren Was played and sung by Joshua Hawkins and created a great fun partnership with Mr Quickenden as Willard. Oonagh Cox was also notable in support as Rusty and held a fair amount of the spotlight.

But whilst there are key individual moments, it is the full package that impresses with everyone contributing on every level to this high quality and very enjoyable show. You also really don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy this show as the story telling and drama are a key part of this great production. It proves that the quality of a west end show can be delivered on the road; you just need people of this calibre to do it. To 23-04-22

Jeff Grant


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