Reviewed – 2nd November 2021
“a clunky amalgam of genres, none of them strong enough to be definitive”
Jonny’s a singer. His job is entertaining folks, singing songs and telling jokes. In a nightclub. Well, not a nightclub but a casino in Atlantic City. It is made clear it is not the most upmarket casino in town, but you’d at least expect the hostess (an underused Jacqueline Dankworth) to insist he smartens up before starting his shift. It feels like we’re at an open mic session in the back room of a saloon bar. Jonny’s wife Rebecca works in marketing at the casino so it stands to reason she would get up onstage to sing a number too. Why not? There’s rich folk who are spending a lot of cash at the roulette wheels, so they need some top-class entertainment. Even the waitress gets a shot, though she doesn’t sing, she plaintively strums an acoustic guitar.
Composer Dylan Schlosberg bypassed the nineties box office hit film and secured the rights to Jack Engelhard’s original novel before teaming up with writer Michael Conley. His songs, however, seem to belong to a different show from Conley’s book and lyrics. With a couple of exceptions, they could be fileted off the backbone of the story and served up with another script.
Most of us will know the story, and the dialogue and debates that surrounded the release of the nineties film. What would you do in their position? Jonny (Norman Bowman) and Rebecca (Lizzy Connolly) are young and in love. It’s a solid marriage but money is an issue. Billionaire Larry (Ako Mitchell) walks into the casino one night and offers a million dollars to spend a night with Rebecca. (For a very brief moment there is a hint that he might have chosen Jonny, which would have provided a more interesting dynamic. But alas the narrative slumps back into its period predictability). “I’m rich, I’m lonely, you’re lovely” Larry says to Rebecca. That is as deep as it gets. The script never ventures from the shallow waters, nor does it try to bring itself up to date.
What would you do with a million dollars? Or rather the question is what will you do without it (do you regret the things you do or the things you don’t?). So, we swiftly move on to post decision, and Rebecca is dressed up and ready for her date with Larry. A stylised bedroom scene stroke nightmare precedes the fall out. Jealousy, regret and separation. Larry sings a song at the club (of course, why not?) then leaves. A year passes, Jonny sings the song he wrote for Rebecca at the start and asks her “so what happens now?”
Bowman and Connolly give solid performances, capturing the emotional fall out of the deed. But there aren’t enough hooks for us to empathise, or to share the need for the answer to the questions. Charlotte Westenra’s staging is often inventive, making good use of the space and nimbly switching from casino to bedroom to a moonlit sidewalk. But overall, “Indecent Proposal” is a clunky amalgam of genres, none of them strong enough to be definitive. The closing line (Rebecca’s answer to Jonny’s parting question) is apt: “Who the f–k knows?”
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Helen Maybanks
Southwark Playhouse until 27th November
Previously reviewed this year at this venue:
Full casting is announced today for Footloose: The Musical, which returns next month following a smash-hit 2016 tour. Opening at New Wimbledon Theatre on Friday 21 April, the tour will include a strictly limited West End season at The Peacock, playing for three weeks from Tuesday 12 September 2017. Full tour schedule attached.
Joshua Dowen will play Ren McCormack, the role immortalised on screen by Kevin Bacon. Joshua’s stage credits include Dogfight at Southwark Playhouse, Cool Rider at the Duchess Theatre and All or Nothing at the Vaults Festival.
The cast also features Hannah Price (reprising her performance from the 2016 tour) as Ariel Moore, Reuven Gershon (Let It Be, West End and Broadway) as Reverend Shaw, Lindsay Goodhand (Crazy For You, Watermill Theatre) as Ethel McCormack, Laura Sillett (Grease, International Tour) as Rusty, Connor Going (The Pirates of Penzance, Sh*tfaced Shakesepare) as Chuck, Emma Fraser (The Vaudevillians, Les Enfants Terribles) as Wendy Jo, Gracie Lai (Avenue Q, UK Tour) as Urleen, Tomas Wolstenhome (Once, West End) as Bickle, Dominic Gee Burch as Jeter and Alex Marshall (Buddy, UK Tour) as Wes. The cast also includes Luke Dowling, Grace Lancaster, Laurence Libor, Jamie Ross and Lauren Storer.
They join the previously announced Gareth Gates as Willard and Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore.
Based on the 1984 screen sensation starring Kevin Bacon, Footloose: The Musical tells the story of city boy Ren, who has to move to a rural backwater in America where dancing is banned. All hell breaks out as Ren breaks loose and soon has the whole town up on its feet. Featuring classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and the unforgettable title track, Footloose: The Musical is set to take the world by storm once again, bursting with youthful spirit, dazzling dance and electrifying music.
When the film was released in 1984, it became the highest-grossing February release in US film history. The soundtrack album ended the year-long reign of Michael Jackson’s Thriller at number one and went on to top album charts all over the world, eventually selling in excess of 17 million copies. Footloose was nominated for a Golden Globe, and both the title song and Let’s Hear It for the Boy received Academy Award nominations. Footloose: The Musical first opened on Broadway in 1998 where it ran for 709 performances, with a London production following in 2006.
Gareth Gates rose to fame through the inaugural series of Pop Idol in 2001, going on to sell over 5 million records worldwide and have hits across the globe. His version of Unchained Melody sold over a million copies in the UK and is the 3rd best-selling single of the Noughties. Gareth is also the youngest ever-male solo artist to debut at number 1. More recently Gareth has enjoyed a successful career on stage, with credits including Les Misérables, Legally Blonde and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. In 2014 Gareth appeared in the final series of Dancing on Ice, and joined boyband 5th Story as part of ITV’s second series of The Big Reunion, touring arenas with bands including Blue and Five.
Gareth will not appear in Wimbledon and Chester.
Maureen Nolan has been singing with her sisters since she was nine years old, when they became one of Europe’s first girl bands, The Nolans. Best known for their smash hit single I’m in the Mood for Dancing, The Nolans enjoyed phenomenal record sales worldwide, and worked with some of the world’s most respected artists including Frank Sinatra. On stage, Maureen has played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers in the West End and on tour to critical acclaim. She was the fourth Nolan sister to play the role, earning them entry into the Guinness Book of World Records. Other credits include Sadie in Girl’s Behind, Jill in Mum’s the Word and Sarah in The Naked Truth.
Footloose: The Musical has music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and is adapted for the stage by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie. It is based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford. It is directed by Racky Plews (American Idiot, West End) with choreography by Matthew Cole, design by Sara Perks and musical supervision by Mark Crossland. It is produced by David Hutchinson and Phillip Rowntree for Selladoor Productions, Tristan Baker and Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, Jason Haigh-Ellery and Stephen McGill Productions. It is presented by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe.
Production photography by Matt Martin
from previous UK Tour