It’s time to cut loose, Footloose, as Bilston Youth Company present this classic musical at the Dormston Mill Theatre. It narrates the tale of the solitary Ren who is moved from his comfortable life in the busy city of Chicago, for the bleak, dance-banned town of Beaumont – exclaimed by the characters in the opening as Where the Hell is Beaumont?!. Ren faces difficulty and struggles to fit in, until a moment of hope devises a turning point in the musical. Complimented by the catchy orchestration of Tom Snow and lyrics of Dean Pitchford it is a great performance with several stand-out performances by this young cast.
Joe Riley leads the piece with strength and ease, producing some nice moments vocally, and clear dance capabilities. His angered character is heightened by the characterisation that Riley adds throughout the show and contrasts the more comical role of Willard (Ben Evans) well. Evans’ performance is a show stealer with clear intention and character, which comes to a climax in act two during Mamma Says - a hilarious number with a strong ensemble of boys backing Evans' comedy - notably some funny moments were heightened by Harvey Zaffino’s cheeky interludes.
Riley's relationship with Charlotte Mason as Ariel is superb, creating tension with Isaac Tilt as Chuck. Tilt is cryptic as the emotionally starved Chuck whose abusive nature really comes out in the later of act two, it is Tilt’s excellent acting ability that is showcased here. Mason’s Ariel is deceptive and lies to get her way, but when Ren comes along there is a shift in her attention – she is a force to be reckoned with as the leading lady.
Jacob Kohli shines vocally as the corruptive Reverend Moore, a performance that exceeds his age and, in honesty, a performance that could match the professionals on tour. Kohli’s stand-out moment was his rendition of Heaven Help Me as the emotional, corrupted preacher. His onstage wife Vi Moore (Jordanne Farly-Moss) was also brilliant, particularly in her song Can You Find it in your Heart.
Lighting and set is basic and some issues with blackouts can be forgiven for an opening night. There was too much haze during certain points, which did cause a strain on the eyes, particularly when the stage was emptier.
Laura Candine’s choreography is simple and supported well by Sam Deakin’s wonderful musical direction; something that can sometimes go amiss, so should be commended.
Other notable performances come in the faces of Ethel (Lauren Sweet), Wendy Jo (Imogen Hall) and Urleen (Paige Barrat) who are simply a powerhouse of vocals. Their rendition of the ingeniously melancholic Somebody's Eyes leaves you with shivers and each of the three are as strong as each other. The large ensemble impresses, setting the scene well. It is in their direction that Candine’s role is clear with some nice choreography in the opening song.
This is a show not to be missed as Bilston Youth deliver commendable performances throughout that must not be missed. Get on your red boots and cut loose this week at the Dormston Mill Theatre, until Saturday.
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