Dubai: When we danced the night away at the Opera
And stayed true to the anthem: Lose your blues, Everybody cut footloose
Last week, I was at Dubai Opera, The Opera District, Downtown Dubai and was tempted to play the game, Never Have I Ever. Now, for the uninitiated, the game foremost has nothing to do with the Opera. Secondly, it’s a simple game wherein a player shares a statement about something they've never done. So, well Never Have I Ever danced in an Opera would have been true before I watched the brilliant production, Footloose.
And, Never Have I Ever seen the Opera packed with teens in rugged, washed-out pieces of denim (and even a pair of shorts) or with adults giggling loud too would have been true. Not anymore, for when the musical, following two critically acclaimed tours and a West End run, came to Dubai, the ambience was oh-so-not-like the Opera (more on that later) — for, the audience, in the end, got up to dance along, and hence resulting in a mush-deserved dance-standing ovation for the show, with stars Jake Quickenden and Darren Day. Now, how do you re-create the 1980s screen sensation on the stage and make a huge impact; well, by simply having fun as you perform, which is what the cast did — not to forget that each of them played the musical instruments on the stage as part of the musical, which included a violin, trumpet, flute, guitar, and more. And I’d like to add that I did quite enjoy that the pianist and drummer, who were not part of the cast, were also visible to the audience! The sets were as original as they could get and it was lovely to see that no effort had been made to force-fit the radios, the diner, the aprons, and the skates...to 2022!
The title song: Everybody cut, everybody cut; Everybody cut, everybody cut… (Everybody) everybody cut footloose; has been sending toes tapping, globally, for decades now, and it was no different here, as one watched Ariel and Ren transport us to a time when in the town of Bomont, where the town council has banned dancing and rock music within the town boundary. What happens next, we all know that, don’t we? Yet, the audience rammed with the most energetic choreography, laughed at the oh-so-retro-era one-liners, and cheered on for Ren as he put forward his take on the council’s support for the high school students to put on a prom. The spotlight was other than of course the artists playing Ariel and Ren, who were impressive with a range of emotions, high-octane quotient, and masterly dance moves; was also on the ones, who played Willard Hewitt and Rusty. Willard with his perfect comic timing and killer dance moves was the star of the night — especially with the scene where his overalls were ripped apart to reveal a glam outfit in gold! He won our hearts, and so did Rusty, with her '80s goofiness. Wendy Jo with her OTT acting was adorable. And Rev Shaw Moore's (Ariel’s father and a respected pastor of a local church, where he maintains a friendship with the town's inhabitants and the council) raw vulnerability depicted honesty.
The beautiful scene where the emotions of three female characters, Ariel, Ethel McCormack (Ren’s mum) and Vi Moore (Rev.’s wife) battle with their individual dilemmas was heartwarming. Ariel’s recklessness, Chuck’s haughtiness, and Ren’s keenness to introduce one and all to the joy and freedom of dancing were palpable. Can I just say, we’re so glad that well, dancing is not banned at the Opera, for I am still catching my breath, but can I also add the whole charm of the Opera experience does lie in us dolling up in pearls, gowns, hats and more — so a dress code that doesn’t involve flip-flops and ripped off pieces of denim was a tad upsetting to see.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times