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2.5* Review: Footloose – The Palace Theatre, Manchester

Footloose began its week-long run at Manchester’s Palace Theatre with can only be described as a disappointingly lacklustre outing.

Based on the 1984 film of the same name it follows teenager Ren McCormack after his father ups and leaves as he moves with his mother from Chicago to start a new life in small-town Belmont.

It is not long before he learns that in his new home there is no dancing allowed (among other things); the Reverend Moore, a well respected member of the community, banned any such thing after a tragic accident that happened a few years before.

As Ren settles in to school life he becomes fast friends with the class dunce Willard Hewitt, Ariel, the reverend’s wayward daughter, her rough and ready boyfriend Chuck Cranston and the rest of the school gang.

It seems like the town folk have it in for Ren everywhere he turns.

After attending a dance in a neighbouring town and teaching Willard to dance in the hope it will spark a romance with Rusty (with whom he is in love) Ren decides he is going to put it to the town council dancing should be encouraged throughout Belmont.

The Rev is none too pleased at first but after a heart to heart they settle their differences and he allows a dance to go ahead.

This unlikely scenario spawned a massive hit for Kevin Bacon in the film’s title role. On stage though, there is something quite lacking.

Last night’s performance saw understudy Thomas Cotran taking the lead role of Ren.

Although he was energetic and enthusiastic he lacked charisma and there wasn’t in my opinion any chemistry with Ariel.

The scene featuring the two of them singing ‘Almost Paradise’ was, sadly, cringeworthy.

The star of the show and the shining light was Gareth Gates (Willard) he brought comedy, excellent dance moves, brilliant singing and at times lots of sex appeal to a otherwise dull show.

I have never have thought of him as a comedy actor yet he has perfect timing and wonderful facial expressions that had the audience in stitches on many occasions.

The rest of the cast do an okay job.

Maureen Nolan’s character Viv changes accent so many times I began to wonder where the show was supposed to be set: it went from American to Irish and then English and back again!

There are a couple of good numbers in among a lot that haven’t stood the test of time: the cast do a great job on Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For a Hero’, Deniece Williams’ ‘Lets Hear it for the Boy’ and the title song sees the whole cast on stage to close the show.

Perhaps with Luke Baker back in the role of Ren McCormack the dynamics will change, but on this showing, a 2.5 score is all it merits.

Footloose runs at The Palace Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday 19 March.

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