Everybody cut loose at Loreto with top notch school show ‘Footloose’

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The production of lively 1980s musical ‘Footloose’ was a highlight of the Autumn Term at Loreto College Coleraine, with a week of performances opening on October 17 playing to full houses in the College Hall.

The production was directed by Loreto’s Head of Drama, Oonah McEwan, with Vice Principal and Music Teacher Stephen Gallagher as Musical Director.

Offering something for everyone, from humour to romance to lively dance numbers, ‘Footloose’ tells the story of Bomont, the town which banned dancing, and how the arrival of lively young student Ren McCormick gradually changes everything. It was performed at Loreto College by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe Limited.

The cast of the Loreto production was drawn from senior year groups in the College, from Years 11-14. In the lead role of Ariel, Kaleigh Colson-Rice (Year 13) was full of spirit and energy, combining the life, humour and longing for love of the character with an extremely accomplished and often moving vocal performance.

Opposite her was Pearse Donaghy (Year 14) as an energetic Ren McCormick, in an electrifying performance: he really couldn’t stand still, as one of his famous solos suggested, and Pearse captured this energy along with the more subtle sides of Ren’s character. The two captured the growing relationship between their characters

with great sensitivity in an excellent and credible partnership.

Kaleigh and Pearse were supported by their characters’ best friends. Sarah Moore, Rebecca Dillon and Eve Gardiner were rarely off the stage and were always brilliant, whether singing, dancing or conversing with an ironic touch of humour.

The performance of ‘I Need a Hero’ by all four girls was one of the stand-out moments of the show. New boy Ren was soon befriended by classmate Willard, and Patrick McMullan made this character his own, in a very witty and lively portrayal of a character whose new friend brings him to life.

The high school and dance scenes were full of colour and energy, with a large chorus of talented singers and dancers. No high school is without its bad boys, and Bomont was no exception: the notorious Chuck, Ariel’s boyfriend at the start of the show, was played with a mean half-smile by Finn McEwan, in a performance mingling menace and isolation.

As his sidekicks, Callum Boorman and Jordan Millar were very effective, showing how even bad boys can’t resist a dance and a pretty girl in the end. Cahir McLaughlin was a spirited Cowboy Bob in the famous country dance scene, showcasing his well-known singing talent.

But ‘Footloose’ isn’t just about the younger generation. At the centre of the plot is the tortured, grief-stricken Reverend Shaw Moore: the loss of his young son has ultimately led to the banning of dancing and parties in Bomont and Rev. Moore has never recovered.

The Reverend was played by Cillian McCotter in an impressive portrayal of a man tortured by grief, trying to reconcile painful experience with life going on. Zara Leese played Rev Moore’s wife: this was another wonderful performance, showing the life and emotion beneath years of repression and grief.

Among the other ‘grown ups’, there were excellent character performances

from Donal Close as the Bomont High School Principal, Fearghal Close as the Coach, and Ciaran O’Kane, Sarah Dillon and Niamh Cunning as members of the town council. Brona Mackle brought out the empathetic, generous and supportive nature of Ren’s mother in another outstanding performance.

Oonagh Rafferty, as Betty Blast, diner owner, created great comedy in a wonderful cameo performance.

This was an assured, lively and imaginative production of a 1980s favourite, which enlivened the darkening October evenings as the mid-point of the Autumn Term approached, bringing audiences to their feet.

Mr Michael James, Principal of Loreto College, paid tribute to the talented cast members and the team of backstage crew who had worked hard on props, costumes, make-up, sound and set design, all led by a dedicated team of staff members.