The Peacock Theatre (slightly off West-End, a five-minute walk from Holborn Tube Station) is reminiscent of an old-style cinema. Comfortable, plush seats – I almost expected an usher with a snack box to stop by and serve me my popcorn whilst I settled down for the night’s viewing – the splendid Footloose! I reviewed on a rainy Tuesday evening and it is noteworthy that the theatre was at full capacity with a wide-ranging audience.
Moving from the bright lights of Chicago to small religious town, Banton, Ren comes to learn that dancing is forbidden. As a boy with fire in his feet, he is determined to change this. Along the way we are treated to great 80s songs such as Holding Out for a Hero, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and of course, Footloose. Act 1 has the stand-out song for me – I’m Free/Heaven Help Me. The choreography is very noteworthy, challenging at times, but executed brilliantly. Act 2 contained some brilliantly emotive ballads.
It has a striking cast – Maureen Nolan (Blood Brothers) in the role of Vi, Gareth Gates playing Will in a Forrest Gump style, endearingly sweet and innocent. Joshua Down as lead (Ren) who came into his own with excellent dance skills and vocals that soared at times. They are supported by Laura Sillett as Rusty, Gracia Lai as Urleen and Emma Fraser as Wendy Jo. It is a fairly tight cast, no more than ten on stage at any one time, singing, dancing and playing their own instruments, which adds to the atmosphere. It is housed in a simple yet effective set and contained elements of both Grease and Rock of Ages. Constructive criticism could be that the accent dropped from time to time. *Spoiler – you get to see Gareth strip down to his shorty-shorts.
The finale is a rousing, feel-good rendition of Footloose and everyone in the theatre was on their feet, tapping, dancing and clapping along. This is my favourite kind of show- one I leave with a massive smile on my face!
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