Review: Footloose – The King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Kenny Smith pulls on his dancing shoes to review Footloose at The King’s Theatre in Glasgow.

WHEN you hear the word “Footloose”, the chances are you’re going to think of the ever-popular 80s film starring Kevin Bacon.

However, there’s a new kid in town this week in Glasgow, as Joshua Hawkins sizzles in the role of Ren McCormack, made famous on the big screen by Bacon.

The stage adaptation has arrived at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre, bringing with it classic hits including “Holding Out for a Hero”, “Almost Paradise”, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”, and, of course, the unforgettable title track, “Footloose”.

I hadn’t seen the film in more than 30 years, so for those like myself, or the uninitiated, it’s the story of Chicago boy Ren, who thinks life is bad enough when he’s forced to move to a rural backwater in America.

But his world comes to a standstill when he arrives at Bomont to find dancing and rock music are banned. Taking matters into his own hands, soon Ren has all hell breaking loose and the whole town on its feet as he tries to bring some fun back, after the ban was introduced following the deaths of four young people after a party.

The ban was introduced by Rev Shaw Moore (played by TV’s Darren Day), whose daughter Ariel (Lucy Munden) is rebelling with her boyfriend, but the arrival of Ren sees her fall for the newcomer.

Along the way Ren makes a new best friend, Willard Hewitt (JLS’s Aston Merrygold), who he introduces to dance, and brings him closer to the love of his life, Rusty (Oonagh Cox), who he’s been too shy to talk too.

There’s no doubt that Merrygold steals the show – he appeals as a nervous Willard, who briefly comes out of his shell as his clothes are ripped off to reveal his rippling physique underneath – to the delight of the majority of the screaming audience – before returning to type.

However, it’s a clever performance from Merrygold, who convinces that he struggles to dance, before unleashing some killer moves that, again, had the audience begging for more.

Our leads, Ren and Ariel, were on great form, creating a believable romance, aided by some clever staging throughout – especially their quiet moment on the bridge.

Full marks go to the members of the cast who, as well as acting and singing, were playing their own instruments on stage – Jess Barker as Wendy-Jo was outstanding, bringing a sweet charm to the part, and Samantha Richards impressed as Urleen.

Darren Day – back at the King’s a year since he performed in Chicago, the production that re-opened the theatre after the pandemic – was full of charm, and knew how to play the audience like a finely-tuned instrument, and clearly enjoyed his warm reception, as well as encouraging an appreciation of his younger co-stars.

The pacing of the first act was perhaps a little slow for my liking, as the numbers didn’t quite have the dynamic energy of the second, but by the time we hit “I’m Free/Heaven Help Me” – a song that was obviously leading into the interval – it had fully hit its stride. The second act just flew in, and virtually everyone was on their feet for the megamix final number.

All in all, Footloose will leave you wanting to kick off your Sunday – or indeed, any day of the week – shoes, will pull you up off your knees. Everybody cut Footloose!

Footloose is at the King’s Theatre Glasgow until Saturday 6 August.