Sunday, 16 May 2010

Footloose- The Eastbourne Stagers - Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne

The Eastbourne Stagers
Devonshire Park Theatre
11-15 May 2010
(Performance seen 15 May)

(As with last year to save typing the cast list I've 'borrowed' this from the programme)
Footloose Cast 2010 The Eastbourne Stagers

Rating an 'amateur' production can be so much harder than a professional production, especially when you are reviewing both on the same site.

The way I see it, a first class amateur production isn't about lush sets and a huge investment in costumes. It also isn't about experiencing the finest acting and singing ever. It's more about whether you have enjoyed the show, got good value for money and thoroughly enjoyed the show throughout.

Well done to all of Eastbourne Stagers as I thought the performance tonight warranted a five star rating!

Being the last night Leigh Baker gave a thankyou speech at the end and it was mentioned to the large audience that audiences had been equally as large and given an enthusiastic response all week. If the performance on the other nights was as good as this evening's show I'm not surprised. The Stagers have another production at the Devonshire Park this year. That will be "Summer Holiday" in the week commencing 14th September. If it is as good as Footloose it should also do extremely well.

Actually amateur productions, particularly at The Devonshire Park, are regularly achieving audiences far in excess of professional touring shows. I assume that word of mouth and family recommendations must be behind the success? The amateur production producers are certainly doing something to put bums on seats. Pricing is probably a major factor too with tickets around half the price of a "professional" production. But we have enjoyed many an amateur show far more than so called star-studded shows.

The story of Footloose is, let's be honest, totally predictable and typical of the 80's style.

Dance loving boy moves from 'with it' city, Chicago, to a small town in the West. Dancing is banned here because the bible-bashing minister (who is also on the town council) lost his son in a town accident several years before. All other residents apparently either knew or were related to other victims. So dancing was banned at it was seen as a celebration and they had nothing to rejoice about. Dance lover falls in love with minister's daughter (oh dear). But the town thug is going out with minister's daughter.

Bad boy doesn't take kindly to the new, itching to do a hoe-down, resident and decides that he'd look better with his limbs rearranged. Our God-possessed minister meanwhile is having his own personal breakdown, he doesn't like his precious Ariel seeing thug boy (Ariel needs retuning?)  but in many ways the potential new 'Patrick Swayze' is seen as a bigger threat to him, his family and the town. Dance boy needs to 'adjust the Ariel', get the better of thug boy, earn the reverence of the reverend and make the town a lovey-dovey, everybodys' happy, dancin' and a jivin' kinda place.

So yes it's a predictable, rather slushy, 80's theme which needs something special to succeed.

Humour (plenty of it) , some great singing and acting , well cast characters and yes lots of good choreography is what is required to hold the attention in a story when you can predict the ending at the beginning.

And that is what Eastbourne Stagers managed to deliver.

Any show that can manage to keep you smiling from start to finish deserves to be a success and that is what Footloose did.

Last years Back to the 80's by the Stagers was good but this was great! This was a much better all-round performance from the company rather than a few people standing out amongst the crowd.

However, I don't think I'd be being fair if I didn't mention a few of the cast who went down so well with this final night audience.

Footloose The Eastbourne StagersLeigh Baker (could be Lee as it was spelt that way last year?) as our dance-loving lad put in an incredible performance in lead role. He was great in Back To the 80's - in the last 12 months he has got even better! Fiona Dogan was actually an extremely very well tuned Ariel (you'll be glad to hear that's my final Ariel pun). She was a very good casting as the minister's daughter and out of all the female performers she had the best yankee accent too. Tom Robinson played a convincing bad lad, Chuck Cranston.

Let's mention a couple of the more senior members. Tiffany Da Silva was vocally terrific as minister's wife and Ariel's mum (Ariel engineer? - I lied). Dave Nicholls as Rev. Shaw Moore- wow! So believable as a man of religion he could easily be a vicar in the real world. The Reverend's role is the one where the script needs to be delivered with conviction, with emotion and to be believable. Those 3 boxes were all ticked off by Dave.

Star of the night? It seems a bit unfair to pick someone out of a very impressive company but if I didn't mention Gareth Brighton who kept the whole audience in hysterics throughout with his performance as Willard Hewitt I'd be doing the poor guy an injustice.

Willard Hewitt has a sort of Forest Gump type mentality crossed with the deliverance of humour similar to Graeme Proctor of Coronation Street. Willard is the lovable village idiot, the hilarious hopeless hoe downing hillbilly. Like Fiona Dogan, Gareth had also put a lot of work into his American country accent which he even managed to keep up whilst singing well and dancing like a loony! This was an excellent comedy performance that could put many professionals to shame!

Almost forgot the excellent band. Nice to see the 8 band members weren't crammed into the relatively tiny Devonshire Pit. Instead 6 members made good use of the pit area whilst Ollie Boorman took his drum kit into the left "theatre box" and Nick Long took a huge variety of percussion instruments into the right hand box.  Good thinking and it worked very well!

Two hours of continuous entertainment - well done Stagers - look forward to September!

Eastbourne Stagers Footloose Company 2010
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1 comment:

  1. A very special week.... well done leigh and all the cast!!
    lots of love
    An adoring fan!!


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