The Torbay Youth Theatre Group are delighting audiences at the Palace Theatre, Paignton this week with ‘Footloose’ the 1998 musical adaptation of the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon. The timing for performance is ideal, with a 2011 remake of the film bringing the story to the attention of the public all over again.
This is the story of Ren McCormack, moving to Bomont from Chicago with his mother, to find himself in a town where dancing is banned. As he tries to inspire the young people to dance, he finds himself at loggerheads with the Reverend Moore, father of his potential love interest, the rebellious Ariel. Never losing the 80s roots, this is great camp fluff, with toe-tapping recognisable tunes like, ‘Let’s hear it for the boy,’ ‘Holding out for a Hero,’ and title track, ‘Footloose’.
The strongest performances here come from the parental figures, with Tim Brown and Victoria Pellant as Reverend Moore and his wife Vi. Their characters go on the most interesting journey, having to deal with faith, loss, teenage daughter/boyfriend issues as well as the strain in their own relationship to an uplifting conclusion. These two do not break character during songs and get the most emotional material which they deliver with a great maturity.
Bryony Jewell also stood out as Ren’s mother Ethel. During ‘Learning to be Silent,’ Vi, Ethel and Ariel give a moving rendition which ended with Vi and Ariel each in a spotlight, but it was Jewell’s character, without the spotlight, who pulled focus with a nicely understated performance.
From the younger characters, Ariel, a sassy performance from Jemma Lewis, and Ren, played by Sam Tull, both offer some great vocals and dancing, with a chemistry that showed a great support for each other on stage in ‘Almost Paradise’. Tull led the dance routines from the front, every step the character who depended on dancing for expression. They presented a warm friendship in a story where the dancing is the priority over any romance.
Lewis Cudmore set the tone for the evening as Chuck Cranston, showing the audience that the 80s are there to be laughed at with his leather clad bad boy performance of ‘The girl gets around’. With some lovely tongue-in-cheek choreography, the boys get a lot of the fun, particularly when Harry Nolan led ‘Mama Says’ in a great comedy turn as Willard.
Rusty, Urleen and Wendy Jo were played by Jade Raisey, Shannon Oates and Bethany Wilkinson. These three dealt well with technical difficulties as microphone problems plagued them through the first half of the Thursday night show. The girls, not to be outdone, got the catchy songs that will haunt the audience for days. ‘Somebody’s Eyes’ is a great tune that won’t go away, with staging that involved an interesting use of torches on stage in a motif than ran through the night. It looked great, although the clicking of the on/off switch on three torches so close to microphones added a little amusement from where the Jolly Lion was sat. Love it. The same song allowed some nice choreography for the full company to join, who were a great support in all of the big numbers.
Scenes were created with clever effect, ranging from gas station, schoolroom, church, kitchen, burger bar and impressive night sky with a wonderful moon projected onto the back wall. All this was achieved on a deceptively small space, once the band is discreetly hidden at the back of the stage, with live music that lifted the show no end.
The cast and crew are a credit to the creative team, with Maggie Campbell, Jay Waller, Colin Waller and Chantelle Shortland taking on direction, musical direction and choreography duties. ‘There are no young people on our stage, just performers seeking to play their part’ is a line from the programme notes that says something of the work ethic from the TYTG. It’s a lovely sentiment, and the results are a show that stands up to other local amateur societies. The audience got to laugh, tap their toes and enjoy an entertaining spectacle, what more could you ask?
For more information visit: www.tytg.co.uk
Last review from the Palace Theatre: Table Manners