A few months ago I wrote a piece about how “the play’s the thing”, but actually it doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Something off on a little tangent of this theme came up a little while ago, so I figured now was the time to address it.
And, basically, it’s down to this:
Standard marketing tactics for a UK touring production. But, in this case, it’s a bit of a miscarriage of justice – if you’ll permit me to be a bit dramatic. It’s true that both Gareth Gates & Maureen Nolan are part of the cast but not, as you would be led to believe, the stars. (Gates isn’t even appearing in every show!) They are playing named, major characters, but not the leads. If you’re reading this having seen a little of Footloose’s marketing, you’ve probably assumed Gareth Gates is taking on Kevin Bacon’s famous role of Ren. Wrong!
Up & coming actor (and former Sunny Afternoon understudy) Luke Baker is this production’s star. And yet there’s no room for him on the truck. This, to me, is both odd and pretty unfair.
Getting familiar faces involved in touring productions is a bit of a must – it can be a risky endeavour, so casting well-known people is a good way to ensure a good income. Just in case! No matter how good the show is, particularly in times of austerity, you can never know. So putting a celebrity in there can draw a steadier crowd in. I’ve no real problem with this: it keeps theatre going, and attracts potentially wider audiences. It is a shame for actors who have been in the business longer, who’ve maybe earned the parts more, but that’s showbusiness!
More often than not the celebrity will be in the lead role; much easier for the promotional side of things, and (depending on the person) possibly better for their ego… Recent examples being Joe McElderry as Joseph, Newton Faulkner & Amelia Lily in American Idiot, and Sam Bailey in Chicago.
But in the case of Footloose, their celebrities aren’t leading the company, yet they’re getting all of the attention. I’ve always been one to stick up for the underdog (whoever thought I’d be saying that about the star of a touring musical?!), so this has ruffled my feathers a little bit. And not just mine:
In an ideal world, I’d prefer it if there could be less of this ilk of celebrity-driven productions (talent show rejects, singers cast in musicals with little or no acting experience, etc.), but it’s bound to happen and is nothing new.
So, for now, all I want is for people to get the credit that they’re due. And maybe a new truck…