Children land roles in Footloose

Some of the cast of Fame at the Sunderland Empire l-r Jake Marshall, Georgie Sanderson, Michael Mather, Jess Elsey, Carolyn Lithgow and Lauren Gordon.
Some of the cast of Fame at the Sunderland Empire l-r Jake Marshall, Georgie Sanderson, Michael Mather, Jess Elsey, Carolyn Lithgow and Lauren Gordon.
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WANNABE West End stars are limbering up to bring one of the most toe-tapping musicals ever made to Wearside.

Jessica Elsey, from Whitburn, first became interested in musicals as a child when she was captivated by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Sunderland Empire.

Jess Elsey who is in the cast of fame at the Sunderland Empire

Jess Elsey who is in the cast of fame at the Sunderland Empire

Now she’ll be the one stepping into the Empire spotlight when she stars in Footloose.

She’ll be joined on stage by former Whitburn Academy classmate Michael Mather, who will play the Ren to her Ariel in Jessica’s first professionally-produced show.

They secured the leading roles after auditions for this year’s Stage Experience, the Empire’s annual summer school.

Jessica, who has just graduated in musical theatre from Newcastle College, said: “My friends have taken part in Stage Experience before and said how much they enjoyed it, so I decided to audition this year.

“I’d watched the film Footloose when I was younger and liked it so much that my dad bought me the soundtrack. I was absolutely buzzing when I found out I had won the part of Ariel, especially because I’ll be appearing alongside my friend Michael.”

Stage Experience, now in its eighth year, gives rising stars from the North East the chance to take part in a two-week scheme, working with a professional director, choreographer, musical director and technical team to produce a West End-style show.

Jessica, who hopes to secure a place at her chosen London theatre school, added: “We’ve been meeting up to rehearse lines, and we are really excited about getting on the stage.”

Based on the hit 80s movie, which launched the careers of Kevin Bacon, Sarah Jessica Parker and John Lithgow, Footloose has become a popular musical, being staged on Broadway, in the West End and touring across the UK.

It tells the story of life in small-town Bomont which is shaken up by the arrival of Ren and his passion for dancing.

It features 80s anthems Holding Out For a Hero, Almost Paradise and Footloose.

l Footloose is being staged at Sunderland Empire from August 1-3, with tickets priced £10.90-£19.90. Tel. 0844 871 3022.