The Showstoppers freshers were able to showcase their abilities excellently and will be putting pressure on the society's veterans to win places in future productions.
The University of Southampton’s Showstoppers society brought to life the award-winning Broadway production of the 1984 hit film Footloose at the Annex Theatre between the 2nd-5th December.
Showstoppers entrusted their freshers with the production, with a clear variance in experience in the leading roles. Just as was the case with the film, Footloose follows the antics of Ren McCormack (played by James Cook) as he struggles to adapt to life in the small country town of Beaumont, after moving there with his mother from the city lights of Chicago. He was unprepared to deal with a town that had a ban on dancing and rock music, and as a result, his rebellious nature comes to light and he attempts to turnover the law with the help of some of the local kids. He also tries and succeeds in winning over the heart of the Reverend’s daughter Ariel (played be Annabelle Williams), despite the efforts of her roughneck boyfriend.
The set design was simplistic. Props were taken on and off by the cast throughout, which was perhaps one of the only downsides of the production ,as there would be times where you were literally having to watch the set being moved around, with nothing else to distract your attention.
‘Footloose’ was the opening number of the production. There were unfortunately some shaky vocals and pitch problems to begin with, but this can simply be put down to the nerves of some of the less experienced cast members. Those issues would be forgotten by the end of the night however, as the cast grew with confidence number by number, resulting in the finale version of ‘Footloose’ sounding one hundreds times better than the opener. Three numbers stood out in particular throughout the performance though, starting with the ever-popular ‘Holding Out For A Hero’, performed by the very impressive Annabelle Williams, which of course was a crowd pleaser. Williams’ theatrical experience and superior vocals were obvious from the get-go, as she dominated tracks and the stage, hitting the big notes that some cast members occasionally struggled to find. The duet between her and Cook towards the end of the production was also memorable, with both performers nailing harmonies and complimenting each other’s voices wonderfully. However, the standout vocal performance from the evening came from Bella Norris, who had the job of portraying Ariel’s mother, Vi Moore.
In the programme it states that Norris had not been cast in a production since she was 13, which I, and many others in the audience, found extremely hard to believe. As she stood alone on stage, her performance of ‘Can You Find It In Your Heart?’ was simply stunning. She effortlessly sang her way through the track, with a vocal performance quality that I have witnessed very few times in any production I have seen, whether it be professional or amateur. When the song came to an end, it took a few seconds for the audience to applaud, as they sat stunned by performance they had just had experienced.
From an acting standpoint, the vast majority of the cast were excellent. They all managed to maintain their Southern accents, and all suited their character brilliantly. Cook was able to portray Ren perfectly, capturing his cheeky-chappy nature seamlessly and was easily one of the standout male performers. Ollie Bray also did a great job of bringing Reverend Shaw Moore to life, ensuring his vast experience shone through at every given opportunity. Other notable performances came from Sam Clark as Ren’s mother, Ethel McCormack, Ellen Fleming as Rusty, and in particular, Billy Boulton as the loveable and quirky Willard Hewitt.
Overall the Showstoppers freshers should be extremely proud of what the were able to produce and achieve. Without a shadow of a doubt, many of them will push the society’s veterans for places in future productions and are more than likely to make a name for themselves within the theatrical community at the university.
Footloose was at the Annex Theatre from 2nd-5th of December