Footloose musical at Norwich Theatre Royal

Emma Lee Everybody cut Footloose. The toe-tapping 1980s’ musical opens at Norwich Theatre Royal on Monday. EMMA LEE speaks to one of its leading ladies, Maureen Nolan.

Emma Lee

Maureen Nolan is definitely in the mood for dancing. The singer is one of the leading ladies in Footloose, which is at the Norwich Theatre Royal over the first week of December.

Choreographed by the acclaimed Karen Bruce and featuring classic 1980s tracks like Let's Hear it For the Boy and Holding Out For a Hero, it's the sort of show that's sure to have the audience on its feet as well as the cast.

Maureen was just nine years old when she followed in her older sisters' footsteps and joined her family's singing group.

The Nolans, of course, were the original exponents of girl power - Girls Aloud weren't even a twinkle in their mums' eyes when they burst onto the music scene in the 1970s.

At the height of Nolans-mania they were bigger than the Beatles in Japan, selling more than 10 million records and causing scenes of hysteria wherever they went. And they played shows alongside such legends as Frank Sinatra.

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Since the sisters went their separate ways, Maureen has moved into musical theatre.

Following another family tradition she's played the role of Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell's enduringly popular show Blood Brothers in the West End.

And she's also a pantomime regular.

In Footloose she plays Vi Moore, the wife of the town reverend, who is trying to uphold the town's morals by banning the kids from dancing.

When Ren and his mother move from big-city Chicago to small-town Bomont, it's a real culture shock - pop music and dancing are illegal and he finds it hard to fit in.

There he meets the troubled Ariel - it's her strict father, the local minister, who is responsible for keeping the town fun free.

But rebellious Ren and his classmates are determined to have their senior prom.

The show is actually based on true events which happened in a town in Oklahoma in the late 1970s. A film version, which starred Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer and Sarah Jessica Parker, was released in 1984, before transferring to the stage in 1988.

“My character is stuck between her very strict husband [played by Neighbours and Emmerdale actor Richard Grieve] and my daughter. We all love each other, but he's trapped by grief,” Maureen explains.

“I have a beautiful song to sing on my own called Can You Find It In Your Heart - I sing that to my 'husband'.

“The adrenaline rush is just fantastic with this musical because people enjoy themselves so much.

“It's really nice to see people having a good time, it's so feelgood and pure fun to be in. And the cast is like a family, they're all so lovely and talented,” she says.

Maureen says that she looks back on her time in the Nolans fondly - although the sisters live in different parts of the country they meet up as often as they can. But, bad news for their fans, it looks like a reunion isn't likely at the moment.

“Most of us live in Blackpool. Coleen has moved to Manchester and Bernie is in Surrey. We get together whenever we can.

“I'm so glad that it did happen. I've got so many good memories. But there's not that hunger to do much more to be honest. I'm enjoying being in musicals, acting and singing, and it's such good fun doing this musical,” she says.

As for what she'll do next, Maureen's got a few roles in her sights.

“I hope I haven't finished with Mrs Johnstone,” she says.

“I was always such a Blood Brothers freak, really, I had seen the show 17 times. Three of my sisters were in it before me. I think it's the best part for a woman of my age. I adore the music, it's the most fantastic writing, by Willy Russell.

“I'd love to play Donna in Mamma Mia. I love Abba and that show is great fun. It's difficult to find parts at my age. But Mama Morton in Chicago and Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard are also great roles,” she says.

t Footloose is at the Theatre Royal, Norwich from Monday until Saturday, December 1-6. Box office: 01603 630000 or www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk