Footloose – the musical

‘Footloose – the Musical’ was written in 1983 by Dean Pitchford and is based on true events. The music, however, was composed by Tom Snow, Jim Steinman, Kenny Loggins, Dean Pitchford and Deborah Lurie, being added years later in 1998.

The LP (do you remember these? Ask your parents) of the 1984 film soundtrack sold 15 million copies. Most of the audience will spot several tunes that they recognise, never even knowing they came from this show. Two of the songs were nominated for Oscars.

‘Footloose’ is recognised as one of the most explosive and fieriest movie musicals. This effervescent show is brought to the stage in a two-and-a-quarter-hour, power-packed event being presented by the Art in Motion Theatre Company in conjunction with the City of Gosnells; it is staged at the Don Russell Performing Art Centre, Murdoch Drive, Thornlie with its opening night on Friday, 11th June at 8.00 pm running until 19th June.

There are sparkling matinées on Saturday and Sunday at 2.00 pm. Although the main theme is aimed at older teenagers, twelve-year-olds may miss some of the ‘messages’ but will love the characters, singing and choreography. There is nothing offensive.

Scene:   Bomont a small farming town

Set:        There were no sets as such, but the back wall acted as a projection screen, with views of the church and home interiors. Across the full width of the rear of the stage was a 60 cm high black rostrum with central steps. A soda bar and barbeque eatery were symbolically represented yet convincing.

Props:   Tables and chairs, but a rare prop were the roller skates

Lighting:              Numerous fast cues from designer Justin Mosel-Crossley. The pulsating light design was in sync with the music. The choice of colours and brightness levels spot-on. The overall effect perfectly matched the lively mood of the story.

Sound:   With two dozen headsets, Elly Thompson was kept busy. Add to that balancing the musicians’’ microphones then her work was full-on.

Stage management:        Simon Walters with his crew of Gemma Wright and Lilly Griechen kept the entrances and exits of this large cast moving quickly.

       When cool polite teenager, Ren McCormack (Matthew Walford) is abandoned by his father, he and his loving Mum Ethel (Maree Stedul), move from Chicago to the Mid-West woop woop town of Bomont to live with Ren’s Aunt Lulu (Sarah Callahan).

      At Ren’s new school is the beautiful, but rebellious, Ariel Moore (Mayarn Little-Bell) the sought-after daughter of the puritanical minister, Reverend Shaw Moore (Thomas Dimmick) and his caring wife, Vi Moore (Tashlin Church). What Ren is not prepared for are the rigorous local decrees which include a ban on dancing, instituted by the local preacher who is determined to exercise the control over the town’s youth that he cannot command in his own home. Ariel has an obnoxious and very jealous boyfriend, Chuck Cranston (Terence Smith), who works at the local garage with wasters, Travis (Liam Tucker) and Lyle (Ojay Voerhuis).

      Ariel’s considerate school friends, Wendy Jo (Keri-Rose Baker), Rusty (Kate Sisley) and Urleen (Niamh Nichols) try to warn her about Chuck, but Ariel will not listen. Ren finds himself being ostracised by the obstinate school Principal, Harry Clark (Bradley Towton) for being too outspoken. It seems even the Cop (Tiana Schwinkowski) is working for the principal by stopping the fun. The sports coach, Mr Dunbar (Royce Newall) and his wife, Eleanor (Rachel Vonk) treat Ren dismally because they are the best friends of the Rev. Shaw.

       Whilst in Betty Blast’s (Cortni Cooper) soda café, shy and slightly dim Willard (Micheal Carroll) explains that due to an accident seven years earlier, the town council has a ‘no pop music and no dancing’ policy. Horrified, Ren musters his classmates and tries – unsuccessfully – to demand a senior prom. So, with a group of friends they drive 100 miles to an untamed night of liberty at the Bar BQ Club. The Club is a wild place, where Cowboy Bob (Sophie David) friend Garvin (Mariah Gonzalez – these two girls were great cowboys, complete with facial hair and swagger) – and the cowgirls (Keely Crugnale and Ciara Malone) they boot scoot, as the singers chant.

      Can Ren win over Ariel’s heart? Can anything be done to change Reverend Moore’s mind?

Director Lys Tickner chose an outstanding cast, many WAAPA trained, EVERY single actor was fully rehearsed and performed immaculately. The energy in every scene was amazing. The half-dozen leading actors were outstanding, with rich voices and energy packed performances, they were strongly backed by the others. Likewise, from romantic twosomes to boot scootin’ lines, the all-important theme of dancing was imaginatively choreographed by Mariah Gonzalez with exhilarating results. Again, many of the cast were WAAPA graduates, so their performances were truly professional.

The stylish costumes were the hard work of Lys Tickner, Angela Wright and Colleen Johnson who captured the pizzazz of the late 70s in this backwoods town. With beautifully styled costumes, ranging from the choir members with their blue gowns, to the wild cowboy and cowgirl outfits.

Connie Wetherilt’s hair and makeup added the crowning glory.

There was no orchestra pit – the musicians being in front of the stage and on the same level as the audience. Invariably this can lead to a poorly balanced band; but with musical director, Tara Oorjitham’s vast experience, even instruments as different as the vibraphone, flute and drums were balanced. The music was presented at a level that allowed the words of the songs to be heard clearly, and yet Tara kept the band’s pace moving beautifully. The music was lively and played with passion by this very experience group of musicians.

Musicians: Keys (Jay Anderson, Shaun Davis), Guitars (Chris Johnston, Kieran Ridgway), Bass (Damien Snow), Reeds and flute (Talitha Dunn), Drums (Martha Bird) and Percussion – sound effects and vibraphone (Ben Jones).

This fun musical has drive, colour and vibrancy so try and catch it.