Footloose the Musical review at Peacock Theatre, London – ‘well past its dance-by date’

Gareth Gates and the company of Footloose at the Peacock Theatre, London. Photo: Matt Martin Gareth Gates and the company of Footloose at the Peacock Theatre, London. Photo: Matt Martin
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This is the production of Footloose where all the cast play instruments on stage. As well as dance and sing. I would add “act” but I might be done under the Trades Descriptions Act. Rarely have I seen so much energy expelled to so little effect.

Based on the enjoyable 1984 movie the musical has been touring for over a year and arrives in London looking pretty jaded. The story of an over-animated Chicago teenager who arrives in a small town where dancing is banned, it does little to persuade us that it is based on real events; this is froth and fantasy, conducted with a vulgarity beyond belief.

The musicianship is adequate but the sound is tinny and the presence of electric guitars in church is inconsistent with the minister’s ban on rock music, dancing and partying. With few exceptions everyone overacts like mad and the strident vocals do little to enhance the hit songs.

There is a nice version of I Need a Hero which almost rises to the occasion and Nolan brings depth and character to Can You Find It in Your Heart? but the rest is superficial noise coupled with accelerated panto antics.

The primitive choreography works against the tenor of the piece. Joshua Dowen works hard as the hero Ren but is hampered by the fact that he has all the charisma of a theodolite.

Worst offender is Gareth Gates who overdoes the local hayseed thing even in a one-note performance. As for the scene in which he is divested of his greasy denims to reveal a well-oiled, six packed, gym-buffed body in tight metallic shorts like a refugee from The Village People, words fail me. Oh wait, no they don’t: embarrassing, narcissistic, dire.

Ropey touring production of a musical well past its dance-by date