WOW’s 2012 production was Footloose, performed from Monday 13th to Saturday 18th February 2012.
Check out the Footloose programme here. This may take a few seconds to load.
Letter from Jim Farr, Area Councillor for NODA East click here
Braintree & Witham Review by Ron Fosker
Sheer joie de vivre bounces off the stage in WOW’s annual production that showcases the best of the district’s teenage talent. As the cast launch into their opening number it’s obvious that we’re in for another high-energy full-on evening.
The show is at its best when all 30-plus members of the cast are in action. As they twist and turn, bounce and leap around the stage, it cannot help but lift the spirits of those watching. Quite how director Nikki Mundell-Poole and her assistant Gemma Gray (in the cast herself last year) manage to direct their dancers into ever more complex patterns will remain a mystery to those of us who cannot manage a simple line dance without treading on various people’s toes. The only blemish, on the evening I attended, was the balance between band and singers who were too often drowned out by the instrumentation.
For the most part, the show hurtles along in style, but then pauses for breath to allow some high class individual performances to shine through. Jake Davis, 17, in his seventh WOW production, takes the central role once more, this time opposite Matilda Bourne, a strong pairing who display typical teenage angst as they kick against authority. Their duet on Almost Paradise neatly contrasts Davis’s tenor against Bourne’s contralto as the story takes its inevitable romantic turn. There is much humour too, notably in Josh Read’s hillbilly little-boy-lost look and throwaway lines – which he throws away with perfect timing. The stage brightens when Zoe Rogers, Martha Lawless and Rachel Goddard join Bourne for a spot of female bonding, Michael Stewart carries real menace as the hard-nut boyfriend and the more serious downbeat sections are well handled by those taking the adult roles of the parents, Steve Patient, Bailey Whitnell and Hannah Willingale.
This show is built on the shifting relationships between child and adult through the teenage years. Thus we have a story line concerning a divorced mother and her son, Ren, who have moved from Chicago to the small town of Bomont, where the Reverend Moore strongly influences and carefully monitors life in a township that has approved bylaws forbidding dancing of any sort: all the result of a tragedy 5 years previously which claimed the life of his son and four other teenagers. However, whilst he has a strong depressive influence on the behaviour of youngsters in the town, his daughter Ariel, barely toes the line and his wife, Vi, struggles to keep things together. All pretty downbeat, you may think, for a Broadway, thenWest End, musical that subsequently has been followed by several pro tours, and more recently a film. But wait.
In a production that is by no means dour, but is in fact bursting with energy in the cause of curing depression, the new arrival Ren, played in style and with enthusiasm by Jake Davis, takes on the self imposed task of waking up the town, using dance as the driving force. Support for his endeavours grows from youngsters at his school, among whom is Ariel Moore, already torn between parents and friends, played convincingly and in good voice by Matilda. Bourne. Some good singing from both and particularly their duet ‘Paradise’. In addition, from an energetic cast of 37, came a number of other very good performances. Amongst these, the not very bright local hick, Willard, played by Josh Read in a gem of characterisation, underwent an often hilarious upgrade in confidence from his initially tentative, then escalating, pursuit of the talkative Rusty; played to the full by Zoe Rogers. The characterisation of Rev Shaw Moore, by Steve Patient, came across well enough as the driving force behind the no dancing rules, and the final discussion between him and Ren, to break the deadlock, was well done. A convincing portrayal of the worried Vi, in voice manner and looks came from Bailey Whitnell. Michael Stewart gave us a suitably nasty and menacing Chuck, the token bad boy of the group.
Given that the whole premise of the show rests on the banning of dance, choreography presents something of a challenge, but the opportunity in scenes well away from the visibility of Rev. Moore gave plenty of scope for some very good numbers.
Over 12 locations are listed in the programme, but the use of a basic fixed multi level background structure, plus simple additions as required and selective lighting, served admirably to convey location as the plot proceeded.. A splendid achievement on the relatively small .stage space available.
Accompaniment by the seven piece orchestra was in keeping with the style of the show, was a spur to those on stage, and was at times exhilarating. However, on too many occasions its level obliterated what the on stage voices were trying to get across. Not perhaps vitally important in chorus numbers, but frankly a disaster against a soloist singing a lyric that is often both telling story and expressing feelings. Is there no way of linking the stage sound to that of the orchestra and so putting balance under the control of one person?
This was in so many ways a great evenings entertainment and I do congratulate all of those involved in its production..
Michael Gray’s Blog
Grease and Glee, Fame and Footloose. These are the young people’s shows, celebrating joie de vivre with a string of energetic routines.
Footloose, though scarcely a masterpiece, was a canny choice for WOW, and from the opening number it was clear that they had mastered the genre. The crisp, snappy choreography, highlighting groups and individuals, and the sheer power of their movements was exhilarating to watch.
The plot – pitting the world of Mark Twain against the world of Kurt Vonnegut – is paper-thin, but it was well served by some fine dramatic performances and excellent enunciation in the lyrics.
Notably from Jake Davis as Ren, with his easy stage presence, fluent movement and pleasant voice. His final scene with Steve Patient’s Pastor, where they share their sense of loss, was movingly done. But plenty of outstanding work right down the cast list: Josh Reid’s dim little Willard, ably partnered by Zoe Rogers as his long-suffering girl, Matilda Bourne as Ariel, torn between her father and her friends, Michael Stewart as the bad-ass Chuck.
It was the ensembles, though, large and small, which really made this show – the hats in the air, the cowboy boots, the cheerleaders, the improvised percussion, the roller-skates – all full of inventive fun. “Mama Says”, set in the junk yard, especially enjoyable, I thought.
The lighting [Nigel Northfield], the costumes and the minimalist set all played an important part, too. Like many musical film spin-offs, the show does suffer from frequent changes of scene. Efficient as they were, the pace and the energy were still too often allowed to drain away in silence.
Fortunately, the stamina of these talented young performers survives, and the protracted finale, with its party frocks, tuxes and customised calls, was just as thrilling as the opening two and a half hours before.
Footloose was directed by Nikki Mundell-Poole, with Gemma Gray; Peter Snell was the excellent MD.