We check out the pre-tour Footloose rehearsals
Footloose is coming to the New Wimbledon Theatre… and I was lucky enough to be invited to a rehearsal in North London before the company commenced their national tour.
We were treated to a couple of key numbers from the show and I can say that it will be vibrant and that both the singing and dancing is excellent. It is a young cast of mainly actor/musicians who play the accompanying music, changing instruments between themselves during the performance. All of the cast play at least two instruments, but one cast member, Lauren, plays seven!
The stars of the show are Maureen Nolan, taking a break from her more full on role in Blood Brothers, and Gareth Gates who plays Willard during the early part of the tour so it was he who was rehearsing during my visit but at Wimbledon the part is played by Lee Brennan. The main roles of Ren and Ariel are played by Luke Baker and Hannah Price respectively and the show tells the story of how Ren, arriving in a new town in mid America, discovers that dancing has been banned by Ariel's father, the town minister. Ren 'breaks loose' and in no time reminds the townspeople including the minister, how great music and dancing is.
The show is directed by Racky Plews, herself a choreographer of some wonderful shows including Guys and Dolls and Buddy and she is ably supported by choreographer Matthew Cole and MD Mark Crosland.
Racky has worked in the New Wimbledon Theatre before, notably as choreographer with Momentous Musicals (incidentally also starring Gareth) and has also worked as Assistant Director on One Man, Two Guv'nors. Although she is too young to remember the film when originally released, she told me that she used it as part of her research and preparation for her directorial role here. She told me that the cast have been rehearsing for 46 hours each of the three weeks up to the start of the tour and they certainly seemed polished during the rehearsal I saw.
Maureen told me that she enjoys touring and the camaraderie of the company which is like a big family and they often share digs. She also told me that she particularly likes working with Director Racky.
Her part in this show is less demanding than that of Blood Brothers and is mainly why she is enjoying this part saying it is more like a holiday although she goes home whenever she can. Maureen has appeared at the New Wimbledon Theatre several times and she told me that she will be staying with one of her sisters who lives in Surrey while appearing this time so she will have the family atmosphere she often misses while on tour. She has a couple of lovely ballads to sing in the show although only does a little dancing. I resisted the rather unoriginal question of suggesting perhaps she wasn't in the mood! Although she has been performing since she was very young, Maureen has no intention of retiring but told me that at the end of this tour what she most looks forward to is getting home and putting her feet up and, as I was astonished to learn, catching up with her three grandchildren.
By Anne Horsburgh
April 22, 2016