Footloose: The Musical – Scotch College

Footloose: The Musical – Scotch College

Scotch College’s production of “Footloose – The Musical” puts a smile on your face from the very start to the final bows.  It is bright, colourful, competent, energetic and tuneful.


Director Nicholas Cannon, who is well known for both his directorial and singing expertise in opera, has put together an excellent cast and has crafted an ensemble of believable characters by capitalising on and honing the individual strengths of actors.  The production is well supported by Liz Young’s off-stage ten-piece orchestra, Nina Richards’ fun, lively and well executed choreography, and Carolyn Bosko and Kathy Laycock’s vibrant retro costumes (and footwear!).


Craig Williams’ set design was simple, with excellent and well-chosen projections on a rear screen being the dominant feature.  As is often the case in non-specialist theatres, the projections are often partially washed out by the general stage lighting.  There are also various stage items that are walked on or trucked on b y the very efficient stage crew.  Full marks to Stage Manager Ulyssia Rothwell for martialling the troops so well!  Jaime-Lee Rainer’s lighting was also simple, with effective and proficient use of cross fades and follow spots to accentuate mood and facilitate set changes.


The storyline follows teenager Ren McCormack who moves with his mother from Chicago to the small rural and conservative town of Bomont after his father deserts the family. Much to Ren’s surprise and disapproval, he learns that the Bomont Town Council prohibits dancing, a regulation that was encouraged by Pastor Shaw Moore whose son was killed four years ago in a car accident after a school dance.  While Ren loves dancing and clubbing, he is a happy and respectful young man who quickly makes friends and becomes romantically interested in Ariel Moore, the pastor’s daughter.  He urges his friends to ‘loosen up’ and throw off the restrictions of small town thinking and have fun, including dancing! He makes it his mission to have the dance prohibition put aside and for the school to re-commence dances and proms again. It’s clear that Ren and the pastor are on a collision course, but it all turns out for the best.


There are elements of misogyny in the text, but Director Cannon and his cast handle this well.


Trystan Haigh plays ‘Ren’ with confidence, style, and charm.  He’s the quintessential handsome, regular, well-mannered nice guy that every girl wants to take home to meet her parents but hopes they’re not at home! Haigh happens to be a skilled competitive gymnast, and his skills are put on show to great effect featuring some lifts, tumbling passes, and an extreme split as part of several impressive dance routines.  Haigh, like the other key principals, has a confident American accent that never sounds out of place.  He has a light tenor voice and is more comfortable singing mid-register than low: his performance of “I Can’t Stand Still” was very pleasing. Haigh knows how to play an audience, and that’s a good thing!


Sophie Laycock plays ‘Ariel’, and gives her rebelliousness and sass, as well as compassion and thoughtfulness. The contrasts are well shaped, and in Laycock’s hands Ariel becomes a complex and most intriguing character.  She sings very well and handles both ballad and rock ‘n’ roll styles with confidence.  Her performance in Act II of the duet “Almost Paradise” with Haigh was particularly touching and convincing.  Laycock knows the value of a costume, and always used her outfits to accentuate aspects of her characterisations.


Freddie Windle plays Ren’s bestie ‘Willard Hewitt’ with just the right amount of dim wittedness.  Too much, and the character becomes a laughable caricature.  Just the right amount, and he becomes lovable and deserving of care, and the audience undeniably love him, especially in Act II where his mates valiantly try to teach him to dance, and, in true Professor Higgins/Eliza Doolittle style, he indeed does ‘get it’! Windle and his sidekicks sing “Mama Says” with great humour, and the a cappella section is particularly fine!


Molly Rowe played ‘Vi Moore’, the pastor’s wife, with an uncommon sincerity and depth.  We see in her polished performance a sense of duty, as well as strength and conviction, and fair play.  Rowe’s performance of “Can You Find it in Your Heart”, as she implores her husband to be truly compassionate, is especially touching.


Harry Ince as ‘Pastor Shaw Moore’ is excellent.  He has an excellent tenor singing voice with a nicely developing vibrato that is balanced across his full register.  As the pastor, Ince gives us authority, benevolence, passion, and conviction.  We the audience like and respect him, even though we know we cannot agree with the seemingly extreme position he takes on obstructing young people enjoying themselves in the way teenagers do.  Ince is a fine young actor and is one to watch out for.


The large named cast is rounded out by Lucy Stirling (playing ‘Rusty’), Abbi-Mae Parkinson-Ledger (‘Ethel’), Asher Gordon (‘Chuck’), Zara Windle (‘Wendy’), Jasper Darwent (‘Urleen’), Georgia parsons (‘Lulu’), Flynn Doyle (‘Wes’), Georgia Polischko (a very stern and commanding ‘Principal Clark’), Patrick Dwyer (an archetypal ‘Coach Dunbar’), Emma Venus (‘Eleanor’), Will Jarvis (‘Lyle’), Blake Taylor (‘Travis’, and ‘Cowboy Bob’), Georgia Sykes (‘Betty’), Austin Cawley (‘Jeter’), Joshua Henderson (‘Bickle’), Isaac Gosling-Heysen (‘Garvin’, and also an excellent dance captain), Stevie Schwarz (‘Jaycee’, and ‘Cowgirl’), and Tash Rigmany (‘Kenzie’).


Ensemble and solo singing is generally tight and well-articulated, made all the more impressive by the fact that the conductor, like the orchestra, is off stage and only visible to the cast from a monitor set deep in the auditorium.  Some of the musical arrangements are difficult, even for accomplished singers, and may benefit from heightened use of violin or keyboard to enhance the melody line. 


There are also another fifty-one in the ensemble who fill out various crowd scenes.  A notable aspect of this production is how quickly the large ensemble enters the stage, find their places, establish a character, and then exit when it’s over. Director Cannon knows the value of working with actors in non-speaking roles (or situations) to ensure they are always in and sustain a character.  Every crowd scene was interesting to look at.  There were no space fillers!


Scotch College is to be congratulated on yet another fine performance.  If you’re at a ‘loose end’, get along and see it, but arrive early – car parking is at a premium.

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This production was reviewed by:

Kym Clayton
Kym Clayton
Kym is passionate about the arts and has been involved in community theatre for more than 40 years. He has directed numerous productions across a range of companies and occasionally ‘treads the boards’. He is a regular reviewer for The Barefoot Review, and is a member of The Adelaide Critics Circle. He is a graduate of the Arts Management program at the University of South Australia and enjoys working with a range of not-for-profit arts organizations including Galleon Theatre Group and Recitals Australia.

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