'Footloose: The Musical' — zippy stage show of 1984 film has Dubai Opera on its feet

Lean and packed with hits, the production leaves a smile on fans' faces

'Footloose: The Musical' is the stage adaptation of the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon. Photo: Dubai Opera
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More than the spectacular shows and concerts, it is productions like Footloose: The Musical where Dubai Opera really shines.

Before its launch in Downtown Dubai in 2016, smaller international shows struggled to gain traction in the UAE with venues at the time being either outsized with poor acoustics or too small and lacking necessary logistics.

Dubai Opera’s dynamic specs changed that and as a result, a string of leaner and more popular productions, such as the classic Cats and Chicago, have come to the UAE to play to packed houses.

These kinds of workman-like productions are arguably the beating heart of the theatre world.

They may lack the technical razzle-dazzle of blockbuster shows, but they encapsulate the enterprising and generous spirit synonymous with the industry.

And, this is what Footloose: The Musical delivered with poise on Wednesday.

In the first of a four-day run, the production by UK company Selladoor Theatre was fun, vibrant and packed the pop hits from the 1984 film and the show tunes that came when it was later adapted to the stage in 1998.

The production should also put to rest any lingering doubts about which format is a better fit.

While the film, starring Kevin Bacon, remains a cult favourite, it nonetheless feels like a series of music videos tied together by a loose script.

It is on stage where the story of Chicago newcomer Ren McCormack’s odyssey to turn the rural town of Bomont onto the joys of dancing feels more assured.

Small, quaint and dominated by the stern teachings of the local pastor, Bomont is a place where the music has died and dancing is outlawed.

Dissatisfied by the circumstances, Ren chips away at the town's misgivings and uncovers a tragic past that can only be healed through the emotional release of music.

'Footloose: The musical' is packed with pop music hits from the 1980s. Photo: Dubai Opera

With the story brusquely switching locations from the church and school to the diner and local council, the set design is as innovative as it is nimble.

Restaurant booths double up as cars and dim lights while ascending crates conjure deserted train yards.

Many of the onstage talents are also working double duty by playing their instruments live — from guitars and pianos to flutes and clarinets — on stage, while engaging in the script’s punchy dialogue.

At times the effects of the extra workload showed.

Certain numbers, such as Dancing Is Not a Crime, lacked vitality. More alarmingly, a few of the English cast members had trouble speaking in the twangy American dialect of Bomont residents.

Thankfully, with the show moving at a tight pace, these troubles are quickly forgotten when the show takes off, once again, into another rapturous '80s pop delight such as Let's Hear it for the Boy and I'm Free, not to mention the killer theme song.

Footloose: The Musical offers no surprises. However, like the hamburgers and milkshakes served at Bomont’s local diner, it is the kind of dependable theatre comfort food that hits the spot.

'Footloose: The Musical' is at Dubai Opera until Saturday. Showtimes are 8pm daily with an extra 2pm matinee show on Saturday. Tickets begin from Dh275 at dubaiopera.com

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Updated: October 06, 2022, 2:30 PM
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