This week the stage of Worcester’s Swan Theatre is yielding a bumper golden harvest of youthful performing talent, flowering from a vibrant local crop of nine to 18 years-olds. They are the 71-strong cast of WODYS (Worcester Operatic and Dramatic Society’s Youth Section) in their latest production, “Footloose.” It’s clearly an all-amateur production but the mainly teenage talent on display is hugely committed and radiates a natural exuberance and infectious enthusiasm which readily communicates to the audience. “Footloose,” a song and dance extravaganza adapted for the stage from the 1984 smash hit movie, is a far from easy production to tackle and poses considerable challenges for the performers, not least acting and singing with American accents and rendering songs with often unfamiliar tunes and harmonies and testing lyrics. But meet the challenges head on WODYS certainly do, and with a vengeance, though inevitably there are occasional rough edges. The on-stage activity is intense and unrelenting for more than two hours, the choreography slick and eye-catching, and the singing and acting impressive. “Footloose” is based on the true story of a town in Oklahoma which banned dancing through an outdated by-law and sparked local High School students into a vigorous campaign for the staging of a senior prom dance. One of the key roles, that of the town minister and preacher who declares dancing to be a tool of the devil, is superbly sung and acted by Matthew Emeny, a 17 years-old RGS Worcester sixth former who has a fine voice and great stage presence. This is his fourth principal role with WODYS, and it shows, as does the effect of his meeting and chat with David Essex who played the role on the London stage. Rosie Mountjoy as the preacher’s daughter is equally captivating in voice and acting, and all the other principals bring their significant contributions to the overall sparkling concoction. They are Jack Cashion as Ren, the newcomer lad from Chicago who brings dance back to the reactionary town, Greg Bytheway (the comedic figure Willard), Grace Whyte as the preacher’s wife (lovely voice), Naimee Tudge as Ren’s mother, and Becky Price, Molly Holder and Harriet Bray as the trio of lively local lasses. The Director and Producer is WODS Life Member, David Humphries who is skilfully masterminding his 30th WODYS production as director. He helped with the formation of WODYS back in 1982. The large-scale choreography is in the capable hands (and feet) of Rachel Price and Katie McNamee, and the indispensable seven-strong band is under Musical Director Hattie Amos. “Footloose” is being staged every evening this week, plus a Saturday matinee. Proceeds from nightly raffles will go to WODYS chosen charity for this year – the Worcester Myriad Centre supporting young people with profound and multiple disabilities. Audiences at the Swan Theatre and other venues cannot cease to be impressed and delighted these days by the wealth of performing and musical talent smiling forth from the young people of the Worcester area. It is so fervently nurtured through WODYS and the likes of the Kays pantos, school productions, charity shows, dance academies, youth choirs, bands and orchestras, and the youthful ranks of Chris Jaeger’s Worcester Repertory Company.
The cast of Footloose take to the stage
WODYS will be performing Footloose all this week at the Swan Theatre