Entering the Brisbane Powerhouse theatre to watch Harvest Rain’s Footloose was a nostalgic experience. For me, it brought back great memories of performing it at CQCM (Central QLD Conservatorium of Music)… on roller skates! #GoodTimes.
For many others the nostalgia will come from childhood when they first saw this iconic movie musical in 1984. Regardless, there was a buzz in the audience and we knew we were in for a good time.
To recap for those who can’t remember back that far, Ren and his ‘mom’ move from the big city of Chicago to the wind blown city of Beaumont where religion rules and dancing is outlawed. It’s a coming-of-age story, song and dance style.
Set designer David Lawrence did a great job outfitting the stage as a huge wooden barn with all kinds of structural interest from floor to ceiling. The entire stage was well utilised transitioning from Reverend Shaw’s home, the local milk bar and outer city bar with ease.
Directed by Tim O’Connor, the show was performed as part of the Harvest Rain Intern programme, showcasing some of Brisbane’s fresh young talent. Playing Ren McCormack (made famous in the movie by Kevin Bacon), was talented Ethan Jones. Jones had the right balance of enthusiasm, vocal tone, and boyish charm to make this role exciting to watch.
Love interest (and the reverend’s daughter), Ariel Moore, played by Genevieve Tree, had the right amount of get-me-out-of-this-hillbilly-town attitude to play the good girl gone off the tracks. Her rendition of ‘Holding out for a Hero’ was impressive. Backing up Ariel in song and sass were her besties Rusty (Courtney Underhill), Wendy Jo (Jessica Purdy), and Urleen (Lauren O’Neill). Underhill’s characterisation as the hyper-enthusiastic Rusty was different to that which I was expecting, but I daresay the director rightly played to her strength in comedy, as she stole many scenes and was an obvious crowd favourite. She also showed some serious vocal chops in ‘Let’s Hear it for the Boy’.
Tom Holmes-Brown was a joy to watch as the country bumpkin comic relief character Willard Hewitt, sprouting “Momma says” wisdom throughout the show. No one likes a bully, but Michael Nunn should be noted for his solid performance as Chuck Cranston, Ariel’s violent ex-boyfriend. Guest actor Chris Kellett was faultless as the righteous Reverend Shaw Moore, with the other adult roles being played by Natalie Greer as Rev Shaw’s wife Vi, and Jessica Elise Moore as Ren’s mother, Mrs McCormack. The role of Mrs McCormack however would have perhaps held more weight with an older looking actor, but such is the nature of s student production.
The trio ‘Learning to be Silent’, between the three female roles (Ariel, Mrs Moore, and Mrs McCormick), was beautifully sung. Some problems with the audio levels of the backing track however, meant that the vocals were hard to understand at times throughout the show.
With choreography by Dan Venz, the ensemble dance sequences were engaging and sophisticated (well, as sophisticated as a boot scoot can be). Jokes aside, community theatre often neglects the dance element in a musical, where Harvest Rain always shines, and makes good use of the dancers in the cast.
Harvest Rain’s Footloose was a fun night out at the theatre and ran for a short season from 27 to 30 November 30 the Brisbane Powerhouse.