By Jennie Slevin
Led by a production team of students, Peter Shimmin, Tamara Toppler and Scott Gimby, BU Performing Arts Society (PARTS) finally showcased their production of Footloose, which they have been preparing since October last year.
The story is, an angry boy, Ren MacCormack, from Chicago moves with his mum, Ethel, to the small town of Beaumont, a place where the law is dictated by its over-bearing and misleading preacher, Reverend Shaw Moore.
It transpires that Reverend Moore’s daughter, Ariel, gets up to as much trouble as she can, including dating the town’s bad boy, Chuck Cranston.
When Ren starts getting into trouble at every possible instance he loses it and begins to dance out his frustration, only to be told that dancing was outlawed in Beaumont 6 years ago, after an accident involving four of Beaumont’s brightest students.
Ren decides that the town of Beaumont is so uptight, they need to be loosened up, so tries to change the law so he can organise a school dance and, whilst doing this, he inevitably falls in love with Ariel.
After several fights, dances and impromptu singing numbers, Ren’s true character shines through, secrets are revealed and the students of Beaumont get their school dance.
The overall production was fabulous, with some really strong performances from a large cast, although it seemed several of the chorus members didn’t really want to be there. It’s always nice when you see a performance where the cast members are genuinely enjoying themselves and some of the background characters really shone through and added something to the show, whereas others looked confused, bored and uninterested.
The opening number was fantastic though, with all cast members holding their different parts. Unfortunately, the harmonies were slightly drowned out by the band, something that shouldn’t really be an issue in such a small auditorium.
Will Rumball, playing Reverend Shaw Moore, led the chorus number with a powerfully deep voice, although struggled with his pitching at times. His character however, was very convincing and the relationship between him and his wife, Vi, played with ease by Steph Dickinson, was particularly believable.
Their daughter, Ariel, was portrayed splendidly by Danni Jackson, who only had a few months to learn the part, after the original actress left the cast. Danni sang every note beautifully, maintained a convincing Southern accent and threw herself in to a very emotional but funny performance.
Charlie Siveyer, Ren, was also a fantastic leading male, with a strong presence on stage. However, watching the last performance, it was evident that he was tired as, although he maintained his character perfectly, his voice had a slight croak.
Sophie Gage, who has previously led casts in PARTS, stepped back to a supporting role but played the part of Ethel beautifully, holding a strong line in her trio with Steph and Danni.
There were other stand-out performances from Alana Armstrong, who played Rusty, the ditzy but loud girl who falls in love with Willard, Daniel Wilkinson. This coupling was perfect and required two very strong comedic actors; they both had the audience in stiches. Joining Alana as a backing singer, Tamar Ayres looked particularly stunning on stage, brightening a scene whenever she appeared. Josh Barton, played a persuasive bad boy, in his role of Chuck and despite only having a short relationship with Ariel, the scenes were compelling.
The choreography, by Tamara Toppler, was professional and strong, and performed by a great group of dancers. It would have been nice for the entire ensemble to have been more involved with the dance numbers but with a small stage and varying abilities the job was really well done. There were a few staging issues, I was particularly confused by the use of entrances and exits in certain scenes and unfortunately missed a few serious duologues because some actors were facing the back of the stage, but overall the direction and choreographer was great.
PARTS always manage to pull their productions out of the bag and Footloose was no exception. I urge you to take the time to support them next year.