national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, September 10, 2017


(Leah Mari & Joshua Milne as the young lovers. Pic by Val Adamson)

The production is vibrant and alive and the standard of performance all round is very high. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Footloose the Musical opened last night at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre to enthusiastic response from a delighted audience. The annual Young Performers Project makes a major vital contribution to building the city’s entertainment capacity by giving young people a chance to work with professionals in a structured theatre environment.

This is the 17th production. Directed by Daisy Spencer who co-choreographs with Jarryd Watson the show is vibrant and alive and the standard of performance all round is very high.

The project was founded in 2001 by Linda Van Der Veen who had a dream to help talented youth get a taste of the entertainment world, and help them decide if this was a possible career choice for them. She teamed up with Durban’s much-acclaimed professionals in the arts industry such as Themi Venturas, Charon Williams Ros, Dawn Selby and Peter Court. The project promotes discipline, develops confidence, and gives an opportunity to make life-long friendships, and to learn a huge amount from the professionals.

Venturas is now the chairperson of the Young Performers Project and production supervisor of Footloose the Musical. His 16 years commitment to the project has been passionate and pro-active and it was wonderful to see him at the opening last night. Battling with cancer and very frail, he managed to sit through the full performance to the admiration of all his friends and colleagues.

The stage adaptation of Footloose is by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford and additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Logins and Jim Steinman.

Footloose was first made into a feature film: in 1984 with a youthful Kevin Bacon playing Ren, a rebellious city teenager who has moved from the city with his mother to Bomont, a small town ruled by Rev Shaw Moore, played in the film by John Lithgow. The preacher has banned all dancing, drugs and liquor consumption in the town to honour the memory of four young schoolboys (his own son included) who were killed when their vehicle lost control and fell into the river.

This production has been set in a South African landscape. Performing as Ren is Joshua Milne with Arnie Field as Rev Shaw Moore. Together they create a strong and excellent partnership as they battled out their differences. It was great to see Field back on stage again, reminding us what an excellent performer he is. All kudos to Milne for matching his capacity and his plea to the town council court was well-handled, with the company joining in with Dancing is Not a Crime.

Fine performances come from Sarah Donkin as Ren’s mother, and Sarah Heron as Vi, the mother of Ariel who is a tempestuous young girl who falls in love with Ren. Ariel, who believes that rules are made to be broken, is played by Leah Mari who impressed in The Buddy Holly Story. Pulling the most amount of fun from his character of Willem is Rae du Plooy and his My Ma Says was highly amusing.

The cast of 25, which includes learners from the Skhethuxolo High School in Hammarsdale, features some excellent dancers – one of them being Alex van Schalkwyk who also impressed in The Buddy Holly Story in his role as Ritchie Valens. As Chico, Ariel’s former boyfriend, Stundo Ndimande was suitably stroppy and egotistical.

Musical highlights for me were, obviously, the title song as well as The Girl Gets Around; Holding Out for a Hero; Can You Find it in Your Heart; Almost Paradise; Field’s solo Heaven Help Me, and the beautiful trio, Learning to be Silent sung by Donkin, Heron and Mari.

Apart from working with a professional director and performers Arnie Field and Sarah Heron on the well-equipped Elizabeth Sneddon stage, the youngsters have the advantages of Des Govender as vocal coach, top-flight technicians Megan Levy and Zara Hardman on sound with Wesley Maherry and Tina le Roux on lighting. And the cherry on the top is to be backed by the splendid The Reals – Dawn Selby, Barry Thompson, Mali Sewell and Jason Andrew.

There’s some strong talent about to break forth on the Durban scene – watch out for it!

Footloose the Musical runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on UKZN campus until September 18 with shows from Tuesday to Saturday at 19h00 and Saturday and Sunday at 14h30. Early booking is recommended through Computicket outlets at Shoprite Checkers, by phone on 0861 915 8000 or online at

Footloose the Musical is presented by arrangement with DALRO. The producers are grateful to RCL Foods through their Do More Foundation, Black Coffee, Snazzi Events and UKZN’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. – Caroline Smart