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Footloose at Theatre Royal Brighton – review

Well, hello Gareth! Never in my life would I have believed that I would be lusting hard after Gareth Gates. Yet I find myself drooling over his glistening torso, rippling abs and gorgeous smile. Imagine, if you will, four stunning girls grinding upon our Gareth before finally ripping off those hideous dungarees to reveal the treasures within. For me, this was the standout, couldn’t-tear-my-eyes-away moment of the production. But hey, that’s just me…

Many of you may remember the original 1984 film, Footloose, with the 80’s heartthrob Kevin Bacon. Even if you didn’t find yourself part of the initial hype you’ll have found yourself succumbing to the charms and the tunes of this cult classic. Now’s your chance to see this production in the flesh, not to mention the added bonus of Gareth’s flesh!

Uprooted from his exciting, swinging and dancing club life in Chicago, our leading man Ren (portrayed by Luke Baker) finds himself in the sleepy Elmore City. To make matters worse, dance is forbidden and this ‘never stand still’ youth is forced to give up his love for moving and shaking. Right in the heart of the Bible Belt, Oklahoma, Ren discovers he is not alone in his passions to get down and boogie. Catching his eye in particular is Ariel (portrayed by Hannah Price), the secret bad girl. So what could possibly go wrong? Well, turns out Ariel’s daddy dearest is none other than Reverend Shaw (Nigel Lister), the very man that enforced the ban on dancing! Teaming up with his new buddy Willard (Gareth Gates) and the girls, Ren’s here to shake up the town and relight the fires of passion for a good dance!

So, how does the cult classic translate to the stage? The journey from film to theatre has certainly taken its toll, however the slightly small space of Brighton’s Theatre Royale was put to good use and adapted creatively. One of the strongest moments was the interpretation of the memorable ‘game of chicken’ scene during the timeless classic, ‘holding out for a hero.’ Not to mention, this is the moment that Gareth (almost) bared all. There was a somewhat rustic charm to the simplicity of the set builds. Adding to the simplistic charms of the production, rather than having a huge orchestra the entire cast played their own instruments! The impressive talent of the cast that sing, dance and even make their own music never ceases to impress! There was a real sense of infectious energy and enjoyment radiating from the cast that spilled out in to the audience.

The cast of Footloose boasts not one, but two big stars! We can talk about Gareth Gates’ dazzling smile and beautiful body all day, needless to say. But bringing the true star quality is Maureen Nolan of the Nolan Sisters! It took a little while to warm up to Gates’ character, even after the aforementioned stripping scene, but in the end he won us over with his charm and charisma. Maureen had us from the moment she opened her mouth.

The shoes of Kevin Bacon are tough ones to fill, but Luke Baker’s take on the character did it justice! Hot, strong, athletic and strong vocals to boot, not to mention those smooth moves! Baker was a perfect fit for the character, and truly was the star of the show! Truth be told I would’ve loved to see more of bad boy Chuck, portrayed by the effortlessly handsome Matthew Tomlinson. From his first song and the moment I saw those hips gyrate, I was hypnotised! I was certainly sad to not see more of Tomlinson, but he’s certainly one to keep an eye on!

Prior to seeing the production of Footloose I was of the opinion that the classic was off limits, not to be touched under any circumstances. Now the talented cast and creative crew have opened my eyes and my mind! Footloose is a production to be proud of on all levels!

By Samuel Alexander and Rees Lewis

Footloose is at the Theatre Royal Brighton, Wed 27 – Sat 30 July
Click here for tickets – atgtickets.com/venues/theatre-royal-brighton

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