Review: Feel-good musical Footloose returns to Sunderland Empire with its classic toe-tapping hits

With high energy and cutting-edge choreography, Footloose wowed the crowds at Sunderland Empire.

Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 4:55 am

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Following its cancellation in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Footloose finally arrived on Wearside on Monday, June 6 with the iconic tracks which helped it to become an ’80s phenomenon, including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and title track, Footloose.

The story, based on the original 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon, introduces teenager Ren McCormack as the troublemaker who moves to a small American town from Chicago with his mother.

To his surprise, Ren finds that the small town has banned dancing after a tragic accident which took the life of four teenagers.

Footloose at the Sunderland Empire.

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The start of the show seemed a little flat and audience participation seemed difficult at first, but spirits were soon lifted in the second act.

Misfit Ren, played by Joshua Hawkins, was captured perfectly and the actor encouraged the crowd to get involved as he shimmied across the stage.

His performance was second to none and his character development was a joy to watch.

But a highlight of the evening was Jake Quickenden’s display of Willard Hewitt – and his appearance in metallic gold underwear was definitely loved by the ladies!

Jake Quickenden played Willard Hewitt.

Jake, who first hit our screens on 2012’s The X Factor, is no stranger to the theatre after his roles in Dreamboys and Hair the Musical.

His performance was comedic and sweet, as he expertly portrayed the role of the nervous and awkward Willard – who has the physique but doesn't know how to show it off by dancing!

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Rev Shaw Moore, played by Darren Day, is also a character that was beautifully captured – not forgetting his incredible voice.

Footloose plays at Sunderland Empire until Saturday, June 11.

Although his character is unlikeable from the offset, the audience really felt sympathy for him by the end of the show.

And talking of unlikeable characters – Ben Barrow, who played Ren’s uncle, delivered a brilliant performance. Even though his appearance was minimal, he was a bright star in his scenes.

Lucy Munden truly sparkled as Ariel Moore with her outstanding performance of Holding Out For A Hero and her chemistry with Joshua Hawkins’ Ren was a wonderful watch.

Her voice was so effortless and she held the stage as her own from start to finish – a really captivating performance.

The Footloose 2022 tour in action.

Something that I particularly enjoyed was the seeing the talent of each and every person on stage.

As well as dancing, acting and singing, each performer showcased their skills with an array of instruments from guitars, saxophone and the flute.

The use of the stage was fantastic and the set was simple, yet effective as props were wheeled in and out.

Even though the performance got off to a slow start – something which, I think, was down to a range of unnecessary scenes – the show definitely progressed and ended with a huge round of applause.

Footloose runs at Sunderland Empire until Saturday, June 11, and tickets are available from the Ticket Centre on 0844 8717615 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/sunderland