REVIEW by Trevor Boag

Ryedale Youth Theatre – The Milton Rooms, Malton – 11-14 April 2012

Exhilerating song and dance, Chicago style, rocked the Milton Rooms as the lights went up on Ryedale Youth Theatre’s brilliant production of ‘Footloose’, but it was soon replaced by sober silence when dance-loving Ren McCormack moved with his mother to the quiet town of Bomont where dance has been made illegal by the Town Council. The community is in mourning for four teenagers killed in a road accident which is blamed on drink, drugs and dance.

The bereaved Reverend Moore has still to come to terms with the loss of his son and with his daughter Ariel’s young adulthood; and young Ren has suffered the loss of his father who has deserted the family. The solace of  religion without the joy of the Lord of the Dance is repressive and the story of ‘Footloose’ illustrates the power of young love and parental love as Ren and Ariel and their friends come to terms with loss and reassert the joy of dance.

The success of this very enjoyable show was a result of brilliantly choreographed and exuberant song and dance numbers from a large chorus, outstanding characterisation in all the principal roles and tremendous musical backing from the Band led by Chris Hocking.

Choral song and dance had the variety of the ebullient Bomont teenagers, the formal Church choir Sixteen, a friendly foursome girl guitar group and the lively Bomont children who line-danced in the aisles

It is worth remembering that the demanding, sophisticated  principal roles were taken so successfully by such young performers. Remarkable features of the characterisation were the Reverend Moore’s portrayal of the angst-ridden father; his wife Vi’s long-suffering patience and wisdom and her beautifully expressive singing; Ariel’s fun-loving, frustrated, dancing daughter/teenager; Chuck, her jealous, angry boyfriend’s frightening bullying; Ren’s resilient dancing enthusiasm and his mother, Ethel’s wisdom;Willard’s gauche conformity transformed into dancing delight; and Rusty’s assertive joi de vivre and dancing panache; with strong support from the minor principals.

Throughout the show the Band gave sensitive support to the cast from the raucus rendering of ‘Holding Out For a Hero’ and ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’to the quieter harmonies of the trio’s lyrical ‘Learning To Be Silent’ ( quite brilliant and this reviewer’s favourite number) and the heartfelt duet ‘Almost Paradise’.

Painstaking professionalism continues to be the hallmark of Angela Kirkham’s Direction and in every department of musical theatre, not least in costume and lighting, the versatile staging, the clever, smooth transitions from scene to scene and in the wonderful curtain call reprise. The audience loved it. Keep Dancing !