Feet still tapping along in Bomont

Holding out for a Hero in Bomont's dance free zone. Pictures: Robert Day

Footloose

Wolverhampton Grand

****

IF YOU like feel-good musicals that don’t demand too much concentration to follow then Footloose should be right up your street.

It is a non-stop, high-energy production laced with some fairly well known songs and lots of energetic dancing.

This is the tale of  Bomont, Texas, a small town  deep in the American Bible belt where our hero Ren McCormack (Adam C Booth) finds himself after his father walked out and his abandoned mother Ethel (Carys Gray) moved with him from Chicago to stay with her brother.

Day one sees them in church and hellfire and damnation sermons from Rev Shaw Moore (Steven Pinder).

Things don’t improve the next day when streetwise Ren, on his first day at his new school, has a run in with dim witted cowboy Willard (Giovanni Spano) who has a mother fixation and a tendency to talk with his fists.

The pair almost fight but end up as the best of friends and that is when Ren discovers the awful truth about Bomont – dancing is illegal.

The plot may seem far fetched unless you have ever been through small town America in the bible belt where anything is possible – and it is based loosely on a true event in Oklahoma when dancing was banned in Elmore City, city being a bit presumptions for a town of around 800 souls.

The ban came in in the 1880s and was in force until 1980 when high school students won the right for a dance at their annual prom.

Lord only knows what their proms had been like up to then.

Meanwhile back at the plot old Ren ends up in trouble pretty well twice a scene which attracts the Rev’s rebellious daughter Ariel (Lorna Want) like a moth to a flame dumping current boyfriend, high school drop out and part time Neanderthal, Chuck (Harry Neale) in the process. A move which sees trouble and a few black eyes for both her and Ren.

The guys are on a high at Bar B-Q

Diplomacy is not one of Chuck’s strongpoints and considering he and his cohorts beat up Ren and he slaps Ariel around a bit it is surprising that the script cannot find some way for to get his comeuppance.

Amongst al, the teenage angst we discover the dance ban was brought in by the brimstone spouting Rev after four youngsters died in a car crash coming home from a dance and one was his son.

Ren, as in Elmore City, tries to lift the ban at the town council meeting so the kids can have a high school dance but fails which leaves a heart to heart with the Rev who sees the error of his ways and everyone dances happily ever after.

And to an extent therein lies the fault of this show. The dancing and singing is fine it is the bits inbetween that let it down. The dialogue is at best wooden and the while the cast are doing their best, Spano, for example, manages to squeeze everything possible out of the part of Willard, the dialoge generates neither the passion or feeling of the p[lot.

The Rev’s sermons hardly inspire and are short on emotion while Rem’s heart to heart which changes the Rev back to the all singing, all dancing vicar he was before his son was killed is hardly in the I had a dream class of speeches.

There are some funny lines but in general the music is good the dancing skilled and energetic but the play bit, the dialogue, clunks along filling in the gaps between songs rather than standing tall on its own two feet.

Top song is probably Holding Out for a Hero with a memorable performance from the girls led by  Ariel, indeed the girl’s voices are probably better then the boys in this production with perhaps the best Rusty (Jodie Jacobs) who has real power and a lovely sound. Her Let's Hear It For The Boy is quality.

VILLAGE PEOPLE

Good support to from Tanya Robb as Wendy Jo and Keisha Amponsa Banson as Urleen.

Hero comes complete with a Village People style dance from the male company, complete with builder’s bum.

The romantic duet Almost Paradise when Ren and Ariel realise they are in love is another highlight of the show.

The clever set designed by Morgan Large allows swift, seamless scene changes and the band under Julian Reeve are faultless driving the show on at a cracking pace.

The musical dates from 1998 and is based on  the 1884 film which had Kevin Bacon in the lead role as Ren and sometime this year a remake of the film is due out which is s ort of adaptation of the stage musical – an industry feeding on itself.

All in all it is a fun night out with lively music, and, for a place where it is banned, lots of dancing and although you won’t come out deep in thought you should have a smile on your face.

Roger Clarke

And dancing along at the back . . .

* * * *

 

THIS is a story about a small, God-fearing town in American where dancing is banned to protect the young people, but the show simply explodes with....provocative dancing!

And that is thanks to Ren McCormack, a newcomer from Chicago who arrives in Bomont with his abandoned mum and sets about changing the law which was introduced following the death of four youngsters in a car crash on the way home from a knees-up.

Adam C. Booth gives a wonderfully agile performance as Ren, treated as a rebel but eventually succeeding in his campaign and even winning the attractive daughter of the town's hard-line Preacher, the Rev Shaw Moore (Steven Pinder).

Booth is a real bundle of energy with a fine voice, supported by a cracking cast who simply get the theatre rocking well before the final scenes which had the first night audience on their feet rocking and clapping to the lively music.

Lorna Want is an impressive Ariel Moore, shapely daughter of the preacher who was enjoying a few sexy clinches with the town's tough guy Chuck Cranston (Harry Neale) behind dad's back before Ren's intervention.

A terrific contribution, too, from Giovanni Spano, the stetson-wearing Willard Hewitt who can't do it....dancing, that is, until he gets a lesson from the lads while girl friend Rusty (Jodie Jacobs) sings beautifully one of the hit songs, Let's Hear it for the Boy.

Holding Out for a Hero is the other show-stopper in Footloose which benefits from the vision of director-choreographer Karen Bruce and musical director Julian Reeve. To 25.06.11

Paul Marston

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