REVIEW: Footloose

NOVELLO, 27/4/06

AT my airy-fairy north London primary school, they used to make youngsters learn country dancing.

Once a week, every week, you were made to feel like a sap, prancing around to maypole music and wondering whether any girl in school would ever take you seriously again. It was just cruel and simply encouraged bunking.

But then maybe more of us would have turned up for class, remembered our plimsolls at least and paid more attention to our dosey-dos if we had known back then that great dancers have as much fun as the Footloose gang.

A terrific stage version of the 1980s cult film, this is the story of Ren McCormack, a dancefloor show-off who moves from Chicago to the back end of nowhere only to find, horror of all horrors, dancing has been completely outlawed in his new smallville home.

With comforting predictability, he leads a teen rebellion against the ban, standing up to bullies along the way and convincing geeks that they too can ask a girl to dance and not look silly.

For all its prim sentimentality, the average punter who turns up for Footloose isn’t here for a lecture about parenthood or peer group acceptance, what we really want are jazzed up versions of wedding reception fare such as Let’s Hear It For The Boy and Holding Out For A Hero.

And, bingo, that’s what we get – with some tight silver hot-pants thrown into boot.

Derek Hough sparkles as Ren (the part played by Kevin Bacon in the movie), taking each dance as if in front of the bathroom mirror rather than a theatre audience. Ariel, the main love interest, crowned foxiest girl in town, it seems, solely because she wears red cowboy boots, is captured just as expertly by Lorna Want.

Cheryl Baker – yep, she of skirt-ripping Bucks Fizz fame – is a wise old head who realises that a dancing ban is plain stupid, while Stephen McGann, (the McGann brother who was in Emmerdale), plays her husband, the party-pooping priest who hates dancing because his son died coming back from a rave.

Truth is, McGann throws in a wooden performance but there is little time to dwell on the weak links in a show blessed with so much energy and so many knockout set-pieces. A smashing night out, this one should run and run.

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