Review: Footloose by Ripley & Alfreton Musical Theatre Company

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Young blood in the form of fresh-faced performers or new audiences is vital to the survival of musical theatre companies.

However attracting recruits is a tough task in the 21st century when people may be rich in artistic talent but time-poor.

Ripley & Alfreton Musical Theatre Company finds itself in the fortunate position of having a large contingent of young performers who have stuck with the group since last year’s production of the little-known baseball-themed show Damn Yankees.

So what better way to harness that youthful enthusiasm this year than to stage one of the stand-out dance musicals of our time?

This week’s production of Footloose lights up the stage like a Fourth of July fireworks party - a spinning Catherine wheel of movement and colour with sparks flying between a grief-stricken clergyman and his wilful wild-child daughter.

The crackling tension between the Rev Shaw Moore and his out-of-control offspring Ariel leads to explosive scenes which are played brilliantly by James Fearn and Helen Perry. His buttoned-up, repressed, seemingly immovable character is at odds with the free-spirited teenager who hangs out with a drug-dealing delinquent and a newcomer who wants to get a boring town back on its dancing feet.

The ensemble dancing is divine at the boot-scooting barbecue and in the show’s signature song, Footloose, and is a credit to the show’s choreographer and director Chris Parkes.

Leading man Andrew Buxton, playing Ren, leaps and dances with all his might in energetic routines, convinces his audience that his character is a force to be reckoned with and displays a sensitive side in the particularly well-performed duet, Almost Paradise, which he sings with leading lady Helen Perry.

Joe Millward as the dance-shy Willard throws some great shapes, including Gangnam Style moves, motivated by the classic song Let’s Hear It For The Boy, sung by Kelly Beniston playing Rusty.

Yvonne Taylor shines in the role of minister’s wife Vi, making her a warm, lovable character with one of the best singing voices on stage.

Projected film footage dispenses with the need for scenery, whisking the audience from the bright lights of busy Chicago streets to a chapel in a town where nothing much happens.

This lively production is accompanied by an eight-piece band conducted by musical director Morris Fisher.

Footloose continues to tear up the stage at Alfreton Grange Arts College until Saturday, April 4.

GAY BOLTON