Review: Footloose @ Mayflower Theater

While it doesn’t use its source material to its limit, the happy, feel-good vibes of this production allow Footloose to thrive.

On May 3, the Mayflower Theater took its audience back on a trip to the 80s during Selladoor Worldwide’s UK tour Free from all ties arrived in Southampton for a series of performances over the next week. Free from all tiesbased on the classic 80s film by Herbert Ross, follows the story of Chicago native Ren McCormack (Joshua Hawkins), who moves to the small southern US town of Bomont due to financial pressures from his mother. There, he discovers that dance and rock, two of his great loves, have been banned by Reverend Shaw Moore (Darren Day) for reasons that I will not reveal…

Credit: Sellador Worldwide

Taking place in a small American town means, as many theatergoers know, American accents are pretty dodgy! In this case, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Hawkins’ Ren delivered a cohesive accent that didn’t sound grating at all, which may also be the case with these over-the-top portrayals. However, the same can’t be said for Tom Mussell’s and, surprisingly, veteran Darren Day’s portrayal of Chuck. The two often seemed to slip into a weird mix of American, Australian and Irish accents that consistently took me out of the southern US setting, others nearby felt the same way when I heard them mention it in the interval.

However, the accents are of course not the main selling point for Free from all ties! It’s surely the music, costumes, and overall feel-good ’80s vibe that this production certainly pulls off brilliantly. Alongside the original songs by Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford, a number of songs from the classic 80s film are used, including, you guessed it, the title track. Free from all ties – which is used over and over again throughout the production with multiple full performances and as an overall motif between scenes. When the songs are performed, the production seemed to frantically blur the lines between a musical and a sold-out concert, with the actors occasionally breaking the fourth wall by signaling them to clap, which certainly added to the good mood of the show. . Ariel Moore’s (Lucy Munden) performance of the iconic Hold on for a hero was another crowd-pleasing highlight, in fact, it’s hard to knock the singing voices of the cast at all! Usually there’s at least one notable weak link in productions, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here at all, with Holly Ashton, Jess Barker and Oonagh Cox also turning in standout performances like Vi Moore, Wendy-Jo and Rusty. respectively.

Jake Quickenden 2014.jpg

Credit: See Li

Alongside Day, the ‘big name’ in this production is Jake Quickenden (right) as Ren’s linebacker Willard Hewitt, who since a failed pop career after The X factor in 2014, has featured in a number of productions over the past few years. Now, I’m often suspicious of those who, in musicals, made a name for themselves on reality TV shows (Quickenden also appeared on i am a celebrity in 2014), as more often than not they are there primarily to have a face for the poster with little real performing talent (not naming any names there!) However, Quickenden may have delivered the performance the most impressive of the night. When a famous star is on stage, it’s sometimes quite difficult to see them as someone other than themselves, however, that thought didn’t cross my mind at all. He exuded the confidence and charm required for the role and I would love to see him appear in other productions in the future.

I think a pretty big aspect that let the production down was the set design, as the show went with an inescapable metal structure that filled the length of the stage. Since location changes were only done using props (such as red lockers to represent the school) and neon lights brought onto the stage, this meant that they all got pretty blurry. I understand opting for a more minimalist set design that perhaps wants the audience to consider how connected the dance is to the community, with dance sequences taking place directly after the reverend’s sermons. But even if he does, I don’t think he’s achieved that at all. The giant metal beams being so dominant among the performers created quite a claustrophobic feeling, which just doesn’t work for a piece that’s about people feeling free and “footless.”

That said, overall Free from all ties was a fun and frenetic evening at the theatre. With many recognizable songs, alongside one of the most enthusiastic and warm-hearted cast I’ve seen in a long time, and despite the small feeling that it doesn’t quite live up to its full potential, Free from all ties definitely worth booking as it crosses the UK.

By the way, although it doesn’t affect my review of Free from all ties Either way, my place in the circle section of the Mayflower was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve had in a long time. I’m tall, but not too tall, about six inches, and couldn’t sit in my seat without my knees sinking into the chair in front. I could only imagine how much worse it would be for someone even taller than me, I would be just as gutted if I had paid over £30 to sit there. Others around me have had similar experiences, which suggests this is something the Mayflower Theater needs to seriously consider addressing.

Free from all ties takes place at the Mayflower Theater in Southampton from May 3-7. You can book tickets here.

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