Colchester show fizzes with talent

Footloose, music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford at Colchester Mercury until Saturday.

This is a cracking little musical which overcomes its nutty plot and entertains like mad because of the skill and enthusiasm of CO2, Colchester Operatic’s junior group. It simply fizzes with talent.

It is something of a personal triumph for Shane King. He stepped into the lead role of Ren McCormack at very short notice when Phil Young broke his ankle, is word and song perfect and handles the dance well.

But it is the confidence and dash of the whole team that comes shining through scene after scene with some very good individual numbers and great chorus work.

The story centres round Ren, newcomer to the hick American town of Bomont where, would you believe, dancing is forbidden by law. It was introduced by the local council led by the Rev Shaw Moore when his son and three other youngsters coming home from a hop were killed in a car crash.

Ren initially alienates high school friends and the town elders in his cack-handed efforts to change things and his budding friendship with the minister’s daughter Ariel doesn’t help matters.

But, of course, in the end he wins both the girl and the dance to give the piece a rip-roaring finale and send everybody home with smile on their faces.

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The music is basically 1980s pop with an edge of country and western, not all of it easy to sing but every performer is right on note and, best of all, you can hear the words. Shane King has a real air of authority on stage and he is matched by Rachel Wood’s Ariel, a sort of pocket-sized Ethel Merman. Alex Johnson, as her friend Rusty, is another with a very good voice and Jason Henderson is a powerful Rev Moore.

Holding Out For A Hero and Let’s Hear It For The Boy are a couple of big numbers that get the whole company going with gusto and there’s a particularly lovely trio from Melanie Greaney, as the minister’s wife Vi, Jenna Saiz as Ren’s mother and Rachel Wood in the song Learning To Be Silent.

It’s a show with some good laughs as well as music, including a very tuneful, very funny Mama Says sung by Rhys McDowall as Willard.

David Henshall.