In partnership with the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University
It’s 2023 and cultural reassessment is at an all-time high. Photos of your parents in acid wash jeans are not the embarrassment they once were, while portable but not always playable cassettes have made a comeback in some cool quarters. Something else ripe for reevaluation: Footloose, which has spent enough time in Guilty Pleasure Purgatory. Now, thanks to a major Perth production, it’s time for it to shine once again.
Haven’t touched the VHS for a while? Let’s set the scene of how it was. It’s 1984 and First Lady Nancy Reagan was instructing the youth to just say no to drugs. In fictional midwestern backwater Bomont, the kids have a more pressing problem: the local lawmakers and church leaders have outlawed rock’n’roll and the right to dance. Thanks to the newest kid in school, Ren, they aren’t about to take it sitting down. Footloose plays as an upbeat generation rumble where the kids have to fight God as well as City Hall.
The 1984 movie was the brainchild of lyricist Dean Pitchford, who lined up a number of heavy hitters of the day – Kenny Loggins, Jim Steinman, Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar – to co-write and perform on the soundtrack. Seven singles were released in such a rush they competed with each other on the charts but still all managed to go into the US top 40. The album went nine times platinum in the US and five times platinum in Australia. Upon release, the movie was inescapable, making over 10 times its modest $8million budget.
Pitchford also co-wrote the book for the stage play, adding nine songs and omitting others. The musical premiered in 1998 and has had successful runs on Broadway and in the West End. Fast forward 25 years and Footloose will be the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts’s major production this year. Guest Director Jason Langley will work with Musical Director Craig Dalton, choreographer Jodie Bickle and a cast of 40 performers to bring Footloose to life at His Majesty’s Theatre.
Ahead of the season running from June 9-15, we run down the five best songs from the movie-musical – the double-denim delights guaranteed to get audiences out of their seats.
Kenny Loggins’ clarion call for itchy feet has never gone away since it was released in January 1984. A song so irresistible it makes sense of the small-town preacher’s worst fears, ‘Footloose’ builds to a breakdown in the grand tradition of its spiritual forefather ‘Twist And Shout’.
‘Holding Out For a Hero’
This anthem was co-written and produced by the master of the epic, Jim Steinman. Bonnie Tyler, in her powerful rasp, makes a case for a Levi’s-clad he-man who knows his way around a dancefloor. The results are overblown, more than a little ridiculous – and perfect for the time.
‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’
As clean as pop funk ever got. Producer George Duke utilises Deniece Williams’ incredible voice to great effect and when she builds to a trilling crescendo, it is very obvious just why she is in the boy’s thrall. Dirty Dancing may have been born right here.
The power ballad before there even was such a thing. The lead vocalists from Loverboy (Mike Reno) and Heart (Ann Wilson) battle it out, line for over-expressive line, on this Eric Carmen co-write. If ‘Let’s Hear It For The Boy’ celebrates the joy of release, this shows sexual frustration is not always a one-sided argument.
‘I’m Free (Heaven Helps The Man)’
You can feel the surge that Kenny Loggins would explore further in 1986 with ‘Danger Zone’. A pop master in his prime, Loggins’ voice cut through on radio and the addition of a dozen people screaming during the chorus only added to the youthful exhilaration.
Catch Footloose, presented by the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University, at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth from June 9-15. Tickets are now available here