Musical Direction by Nicholas Griffin
Supa Productions at the ANU Arts Centre to 28 September 2013
Review by Len Power 14 September 2013
Supa Productions’, ‘Footloose’, based on a popular 1984 movie, is a slight 1998 Broadway show with a clichéd book, a stack of pop tunes - only a few of which are memorable - and an overlong running time. The large, mostly young, cast of this production almost get away with it with their enthusiasm and energy, especially in the rousing finale of the show.
Anyone directing this show needs to decide how to make the thin story line playable. This production opted to play it modern and straight and the result was a lot of tedium between musical numbers. It might have been more fun played as a satire of the 1980s or even in a cartoon style.
Luckily, we had three very talented and appealing singers in Claudia Tetrault-Percy, Kirrah Amosa and Zoe Priest to open the show with a rousing ‘Footloose’ and continue on with ‘Somebody’s Eyes’, ‘Holding Out For A Hero’, with the excellent Eliza Shepherd and ‘Let’s Hear It For the Boy’. Maureen Read and Christine Forbes also shone with ‘Learning To Be Silent’, again joined by Eliza Shepherd. The full cast numbers were well sung by the company but a sound imbalance with the orchestra often drowned out the singers and made lyrics impossible to hear. Aside from the sound imbalance, Nicholas Griffin’s orchestra played the score very well.
The costumes which were co-ordinated for the show by Emma Tatum might be modern dress but a musical should still display an overall style in its costumes. Tim Stiles’ costume for the Reverend screamed ‘trailer trash’ rather than ‘fine, upstanding citizen’. It was also hard to believe that the Reverend would allow his daughter, Ariel, out of the house in the sexy hotpants and skimpy top she was wearing.
The ugly set by Jordan Kelly and Dan Kempton showed no thoughtful design and added nothing to the show.
More style in keeping with a Broadway show in the choreography by Nikole Neal rather than pointless Rock Eisteddfod steps would have been more interesting to watch and there was a noticeable variation in dance skills amongst the large cast. The dancing often took the focus away from the lead singers, too, especially in the ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ number, where the singers virtually disappeared behind a mass of jiggling dancers. In a Broadway musical, the dancing should complement the number, not gang up on it.
First time director, Jordan Kelly, worked with too large a cast to keep full control. The scene in the gymnasium, for example, was a distracting melee of people shuffling around with nothing much to do. Many of the young cast also lacked basic stagecraft. More work needed to be done to ensure the focus of certain scenes was where it needed to be. Emotional scenes either lacked energy or were right over the top and needed stronger direction to make them believable.
This is a difficult show to get right, given the lack-lustre material you have to start with. Unfortunately this production was not up to Supa’s usually high standard.