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Talented youngsters from Stowmarket Bravo! theatre workshops stage smash hit musical Footloose at Thurston

After nine rehearsals, the talented youngsters of a Stowmarket theatre school staged the smash hit musical Footloose on Saturday.

Yes, you read that right – just nine rehearsals – but members of the audience would never have known it.

From the opening chords until the final bows, Footloose, on stage at Thurston Community College, was a vibrant explosion of energy, enthusiasm and talent.

Bravo theatre workshops staged Footloose at Thurston Community College on Saturday. Picture: Camille Berriman
Bravo theatre workshops staged Footloose at Thurston Community College on Saturday. Picture: Camille Berriman

For those unfamiliar with the 1984 movie and later stage musical adaptation, Footloose tells the story of teenager Ren McCormack, who is forced to move from Chicago to small town Bomont after his father abandons him and his mother.

Ren soon discovers Bomont has an unusual law, with dancing banned within the town limits.

Being a city boy out of place in a small town, Ren finds himself at odds with many townsfolk, however he soon becomes friends with simple Willard and rebellious Ariel, the reverend’s daughter.

Footloose is the coming of age story of Ren and Ariel, as they navigate the pitfalls of adolescence and eventually win round the community leaders to allow a school dance.

The production includes belting song and dance numbers, from the eponymous Footloose to smash hits Holding Out for a Hero and Let’s Hear it for the Boy.

All were performed with energy and panache (and no sign of nerves or feet out of place), with excellent choreography.

I was particularly impressed with the atmospheric Somebody’s Eyes and moving Almost Paradise, where I almost shed a tear.

Then there was Mama Says, a very funny opportunity for the male members of the cast to steal the spotlight, as Willard shares examples of his mother’s ‘wisdom’. They certainly made the most of it, raising plenty of belly laughs from the audience to boot.

But for me, opening number Footloose/On Any Sunday was a personal winner, with beautiful harmonies and clever staging as the scene segued from Chicago to Bomont Church.

All the leads delivered strong performances, with some impressive vocals, accents and stage presence on display.

However, mention must go to Ariel (Ella Smith) and Ren (Noah Sparkes), who demonstrated genuine charisma with their confident performances.

I also appreciated the simple but effective set which, combined with clever lighting, transformed from a church, to school, to town council and also Ariel’s secret place, under a train bridge.

My seven-year-old daughter Clara was thrilled by the production, while I returned home trying to persuade her to add Bravo! to her list of extra-curricular activities.

Bravo! principal Anna Damigella said, when she came on stage at the end of the show: “I am so proud.”

I don’t blame her. All the 11-17-year-olds on stage on Saturday can certainly be immensely proud of their achievements.

And, having enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining night out, I have made a mental note to attend future Bravo! productions.