Monday, September 16, 2013

FOOTLOOSE




 
Presented by Supa Productions

ANU Arts Centre until 28th September 2013

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Best known as a choreographer and dancer, Jordan Kelly, makes an impressive directorial debut with this exuberant production of “Footloose”. Kelly has managed to find warmth and relevance in a fairly lacklustre script and score, by drawing strong committed performances from his largely inexperienced cast to produce a fast-paced, energetic, occasionally moving, night in the theatre.

The rather predictable storyline concerns an outsider, Ren who finds himself attracted to the town’s bad-girl, Ariel. Ariel is coping badly with her grief over the loss of her brother, who lost his life with three other teenagers in a road accident. As a result of this accident, the town council, led by Ariel’s preacher-father, has banned dancing. But after a series of misadventures, Ren and Ariel find love together after Ren convinces Ariel’s father, and the town council, that dancing is not such a bad thing at all.

Angus Murphy and Eliza Shephard in "Footloose".
Angus Murphy and Eliza Shephard give strong, interesting performances as Ren and Ariel. Both had trouble with intonation on opening night, but, despite their relative inexperience,  both gave such confident, intelligent performances that the audience was drawn to care about their characters, so that by the time they had reached their well- staged duet on the railway bridge, any vocal deficiencies were forgiven.

No such vocal deficiencies exist among Ariel’s three vivacious friends, played by Claudia Tetrault-Percy, Kirrah Amosa and Zoe Priest, who sing their three- part harmonies with pin-point accuracy and light up the stage on every appearance.  As Ren’s socially inept side-kick, Anthony Simeonovic gives an engaging performance, displaying a talent for fancy dancing, and garnering the lion’s share of the laughs.

Tim Stiles brings a fine singing voice and welcome gravitas to the role of Ariel’s over-bearing father, Reverend Shaw Moore. His climatic conversion scene with Ren is a real highlight. Christine Forbes is well-cast as his wife, Vi, utilising her considerable experience to bring warmth and empathy to an otherwise under-written role. Maureen Read was also very effective as Ren’s mother, Ethel.

The simple, functional setting designed by Jordan Kelly and Dan Kempton works well, allowing for smooth scene transitions while leaving sufficient space for the many dance sequences, devised by choreographer, Nikole Neal which are performed with enthusiasm and confidence by the large ensemble cast.

First time Musical Director, Nicholas Griffin and his small band provide excellent musical backing while keeping the show flowing smoothly between scene changes. So good were they that they should consider some exit music to maintain the atmosphere while the audience leave the theatre.

“Footloose” may not be the best musical you’ll see this year, but there’s so much to enjoy in this high-spirited, exuberant production that it would be a pity to miss it.

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