Stage One dancers cut loose

LEAN and mean, Kevin Bacon captivated a generation with his portrayal of a dance-crazy city boy transferred to a sleepy country town in the 1984 film, Footloose. The stage musical, with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, contains the same pum

LEAN and mean, Kevin Bacon captivated a generation with his portrayal of a dance-crazy city boy transferred to a sleepy country town in the 1984 film, Footloose.

The stage musical, with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, contains the same pumping score and a similarly sparky dialogue, and it was this piece that Stage One Theatre Company presented to Ilford's Kenneth More Theatre audiences last week. From the moment Chicago-born Ren McCormack bursts into the quiet town of Bomont, the action never stops.

Based on a true story, the plot has the dance-crazy Ren clashing with town fathers (and mothers), who have outlawed dancing since four teenagers were killed in a car crash after leaving a dance. The leader of the stop-the-fun brigade is preacher, Shaw Moore, whose son was one of those who died. Sparks fly when Ren takes a shine to his daughter, Ariel.

Simon Curtin, who took the role of Ren just three weeks before the show premiered after an actor dropped out, was pretty much word and step-perfect. I found his performance a little low key in act one, but he more than compensated in act two, when his delivery was high-octane and his voice came into its own in songs like Dancing is Not a Crime.


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He was well matched with Georgia Permutt, a lively performer who carried off the role of Ariel with style, charm and dazzling confidence. Georgia is never still or out of character, and always watchable.

Jai Sepple did a great job as preacher Moore. Some of his most telling acting came in the quiet moments, when his character questions the hand God had dealt him. Jai's Heaven Help Me was sensitive and haunting.

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Harri Sepple was good as the preacher's long-suffering wife, Vi, and Jackie Lowe gave a strong performance as Ren's mother, Edith.

Ren and Ariel were surrounded by a cast of friends, including the wonderfully comic Joe Curran as Willard Hewitt and Gemma Copping as fiery Rusty.

The big numbers, like Holding Out for a Hero and Still Rockin' were handled with aplomb and joie de vivre.

Jai deserves plaudits for assured directing and a well-cast ensemble that included many of the young performers who Stage One was founded to encourage.

And Harri contributed the dashing choreography that required the orchestra - expertly directed by Darren Matthews - to perform from a nearby room, rather than the pit, which would have limited the space for dancing.

This piece is a paean to dance, and the role it plays in our lives - as Ren points out to the Bomont worthies, various cultures have used it to celebrate, drum up rain, or appease the gods.

The people of Bomont learn that dance can help them express joy and improve community cohesion. And Jai's crew made the point pretty forcefully.

- SUE LEEMAN

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