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Cut loose! It’s Footloose The Musical!

Following two critically acclaimed tours and a West End run, Footloose hits Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple. But will it have Muddy 'kicking off her Sunday shoes'?

With the heatwave in full swing, you wouldn’t think things could get any hotter but whoah! Footloose the Musical at Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple, the 80s tale of a bunch of teenage kids challenging the establishment in small-town America, just about broke the doggone thermometer.

With a super-talented cast, including X Factor‘s Jake Quickenden (above centre) as country boy Willard Hewitt, they belted out the Footloose classics and danced their cotton-socks off while playing guitar and sax in the sweltering heat. It was a total blast.


You know the story, of course, but here’s a quick reminder…Ren, a Chicago teen leaves the city with his newly single mom Ethel and rocks up in Bomont, a small town where, due to a tragic car accident and the deaths of four kids after a night out five years prior, dancing has been outlawed by the town’s bible-bashing Reverend Shaw Moore.

At first, Ren is rejected as an outsider by the locals, but he slowly falls in with the kids and falls in love with the Rev’s gorgeous and sassy daughter, Ariel. But Ren decides someone has to challenge the no-dancing law, and a whole lotta trouble – and a whole lotta rock and roll – ensues.

The stage adaptation is by Dean Pitchford who wrote the original screenplay for the 1980s film starring Kevin Bacon, and is stuffed with all those singalong hits we know and love, including Footloose (obvs), Holding Out for a Hero, and Let’s Hear it for the Boy.


Showing until Saturday 16 July on a five-night run, the action was on stage at Queen’s Theatre on Boutport Street, slap-bang in the centre of Barnstaple. I have to say it was the other star of the show – a gorgeous old-fashioned playhouse with an airy foyer, complete with box office and bar, from where you can spill out onto the street during the interval, and tiered seating giving the best view I’ve had at the theatre in ages (even in row M).


What a belter of a show! Every song was a winner, kicking off fast and hard with the iconic vroom-vroom of Footloose, and quickly settling Ren in with the Bomont folks, from the dazzling Ariel and her girlfriends, Ariel’s bit-of-rough boyfriend Chuck and his oafish and amusing mates, loveable country boy Willard, and the older establishment, led by Rev Shaw and wife Vi.

Although much of the action moves forward through song, you see enough emotional depth to quickly come to like the characters, especially the easy-going Ren (played by the excellent Joshua Hawkins).

The electricity coming off that boi could light up a power station. He rocked, he rolled, he high-kicked and knee-slid, he play-boxed and double-skipped. He had the audience on their feet clapping and singing for a good ten minutes, and even after the foot-stomping finale, he gave us some break-dancing as the lights came on. What a star!

Paired with newcomer, Lucy Munden (far right), in the part of Ariel, the electricity got even brighter. Often the Prince Charming/Cinderella characters can be the weakest but these were well rounded and strong and when they got it together for a snog and singsong in the second act, the harmonies were delicious.

Truth be told, the whole cast were high octane value – I was blown away by their musical prowess and energy. (And the fact they didn’t knock each others blocks off while grooving with their instruments.) Plug the lot of ’em into the grid and our energy crisis would be sorted!

The set and costumes were brilliant and colourful, with all those classic American tropes you want to see – pink Cadillacs, burger bars, barn dances and some seriously impressive Double Dutch skipping – while playing the guitar!

Loads of amusing timing-related humour too, waiters on skates accidentally grabbing a pair of boobs (nicely underplayed by Hawkins), a high-pitched screech from hard guy Chuck, and a lot of cocky thrusting from the fellas (wore a bit thin on me but the audience loved it).

There was some Bucks Fizz-style whipping off of clothes which saw a quick-change for Ren from prim preacher’s daughter into a pair of cheeky-bum shorts and later, Willard from dungarees to a pair of golden Kylie shorts which had the ladies positively cooing.

If there was a downside, it was only that I was looking forward to seeing Darren Day as Reverend Shaw. Instead his shoes were more than ably filled by Ben Barrow for the night.

But what a great night! There were clearly a lot of Footloose aficionados who knew and lapped up every note, and more than a few Jake Quickenden aficionados (and *ahem* one more after that golden shorts moment) which had one woman shouting “We love you, Jake!” after he brilliantly belted out Mama Says. Who knew a guy in a pair of baby-blue dungarees and shoulder tats could look simultaneously so cute and so darn hot.


Not a duff note! If you love 80s classics, Grease, Dirty Dancing, and clapping till your hands are on fire, don’t miss!

Good for: getting happy and letting off some steam on a steamy night; 80s crooners, groovers and shakers; retro American lovers. Jake Q fans.

Not for: er, people who believe dancing should be banned?

The damage: From £18pp.

Footloose is on at Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple until Saturday 16 July 2022, 7.30pm and 2.30pm matinee. Parental advisory 10+.Missed this one? Try Princess Theatre, Torquay, Tues 9 – Sat 13 August,

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