Budding young stars get ready to cut Footloose

IF you’re going to take on an epic dance show like Footloose, who better to help than somebody who’s performed it in the West End.

Northampton-based Melissa Green was the understudy for both Ariel and Rusty at London’s Playhouse theatre and in the professional tour of Footloose, playing both roles many times when not performing in the ensemble.

She was invited to work with the youngsters by Mark Connell, whom she starred alongside in Mamma Mia and whose wife, Rebecca, is directing the Spa Pavilion Summer Youth Project show this year.

“He knew I’d done the show and said it would be great if I could come in and do a bit of the actual show with them, show them what I do in the real show and stuff and I said yep, I would be more than happy to do that.

“The workshops went great. I do a lot of teaching but I was really surprised with the standard, they were really good, really strong dancers, singers and all-round performers,” said the Italia Conti Theatre School- trained star.

“Obviously you see how the workshops are going and then you think, well if it’s too hard for them I’ve always got an adapted version that makes it easier if I needed to. But, actually, I didn’t need to make it any easier for them, they were great and could do everything I threw at them.”

The workshops were split into two, with the younger group performing Let’s Hear it for the Boy, which Melissa adapted slightly because it’s more a performance rather than dancing number, and the older group taking on the title song Footloose.

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As well as taking them through the moves, Melissa also helped them work on their acting and getting into character.

“I think the Summer Youth Project is fantastic,” Melissa added.

“It gives people the chance to do something they wouldn’t necessarily otherwise get to do.

“There was a mixture of levels, you’ve got the ones who do it for a bit of fun but I could definitely see people there that will go on and have a future in musical theatre because they were fabulous and it’s a great opportunity for them.

“Workshops like these, especially getting in teachers who have done shows and can pass on their knowledge, gives them a bit of a sight into what the business is like.

Footloose is based on the 1980s smash movie starring Kevin Bacon which took the world by storm with its dazzling dance routines and electrifying music.

Well-known hits from the movie include Holding out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and, of course, the unforgettable title track Footloose.

Ren and his mother move from Chicago to a small farming town. While’s he ready to adjust to a new high school, he’s not ready for the local laws – which include a ban on dancing.

They’re the brainchild of the local preacher, who is hellbent on exercising control over the town’s youths.

When the reverend’s rebellious daughter sets her heart on the new kid in town, her boyfriend tries to sabotage Ren’s reputation and many of the locals are eager to believe the worse.

Such is the film’s ongoing appeal, a remake is in the works. Initially set to star High School Musical heart-throb Zac Efron, rumour has it the role of Ren has now gone to Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford – but nothing except a release date has been offically confirmed so far.

The Summer Youth Project (SYP) first came about when the Spa Pavilion was managed by clearchannel entertainment.

It managed a large number of theatres around the country and endeavoured to run a summer youth project at all its theatres.

The first project, Annie in 2003, was very well received.

It was followed by Fame in 2004, Barnum in 2005, Oliver in 2006, We Will Rock You in 2007 and Summer Holiday in 2008.

Last year saw more than 100 performers stage The Wiz, was based on the well-known story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

It gives budding stars aged nine to 23 in the area the chance to stage and perform a full-scale musical for the paying public under expert professional supervision.

This year’s production team includes director Rebecca Darcy, choreographer Suzie Lowe and musical director Richard Healey.

There are 80 youngsters taking part this year, who come from all over East Anglia. Some come from further afield and stay with families while doing so.

Now in its eighth year, the project is run by Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion Theatre in conjunction with Suffolk Coastal District Council.

Those taking part are put through an intensive rehearsal schedule; learning all the necessary stage techniques including performance, lighting, sound and music with the show taking place in the second week.

Auditions for Footloose – an amateur production performed by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Limited – were held at the Spa in April and rehearsals begin in earnest on August 8.

“We chose Footloose because it’s full of up-tempo music and dancing from beginning to end,” said Bridget Rutherford, project co-ordinator.

“We choose titles that enable us to give everyone taking part a chance to shine as we have such a large number taking part it can be difficult to keep finding new shows to do.

“For me, the challenge is co-ordinating everything in such a way it seem like it just happens,” laughs Bridget.

Like previous years there will be a deaf interpretation performance, this time on August 19. The signer is Caroline Smith from the town who signed for the project last year.

“We’ve had a signed performance on the Thursday of our run for several years now. Making sure information about this performance reaches the patrons who will benefit from it is also something of a challenge.”

Bridget says ticket sales for the show are steady, but urges everybody to see all the hard work the youngsters are putting into the production.

“Melissa’s workshop was a great success, everyone work very had and all enjoyed it a great deal. I’m sure the project will do everybody a lot of good, but we aim to help everyone who takes part to develop in as many ways as they can – confidence, self-worth, team-work and many others.”

Footloose will run at Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion from August 18-21.

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