Dean Pitchford's Footloose comes to Edinburgh on a wave of energy from Viva Youth Theatre. A musical theatre adaptation of the popular 1980's movie, its big screen remake in 2011 has revived interest in the story and brought it to a whole new generation: Ren McCormack and his mother move from big city Chicago to small town Bomont. Ren is prepared for change, but what he isn't prepared for is a ban on dancing. To add to his troubles the local Reverend's rebellious daughter sets her sights on him and her roughneck boyfriend tries to sabotage Ren's reputation. Can Ren turn it all around, when so many of the locals are eager to believe the worst?
The youthful cast burst onstage with an exuberant flourish and their unfailing commitment doesn't diminish throughout this affable tale. Central to the success of the piece is the casting of Ren and local minister's daughter Ariel. The two young leads give assured performances throughout, ably conveying the conflict between rebelling against authority and the pressure of giving in to your peers. Less successful however is the chorus, often out of tune and more frequently singing out of their range, there were moments when the audience were visibly wincing. The company seemed to be either under-rehearsed or tasked with singing material beyond their vocal capabilities. Some cast members vocals were also lacking in power and often inaudible in parts. Some blame though must rest with failure of the direction to account for the wrap-around auditorium. The actors had clearly been directed to play to the part of the house immediately in front of them which unfortunately left two-thirds of the audience feeling somewhat left out. The cast must be credited for their effort though, each displayed 100% commitment to the show and the staging, band and sound effects were impressively slick.
The movie turned into musical is a familiar formula and the popularity of the genre is undoubted: with a youthful storyline played out against the biggest 80's pop hits they’re appealing to a wide audience here, but I can't help feeling that the audience were a bit short changed in quality.