Jake and Darren are so happy to have their day cutting loose in Footloose The Musical

One giant leap for…Jake Quickenden, playing cowboy Willard in Footloose The Musical

DANCING On Ice winner Jake Quickenden and doyen of the musicals Darren Day are heading for York Theatre Royal in Footloose The Musical next week.

The show is based on the 1984 film, the one with such hits as Holding Out For A Hero, Almost Paradise, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and the title track, wherein American teenage city boy Ren McCormack is forced to move from Chicago to the rural backwater of Bomont after his father deserts him.

Things go from bad to worse when Ren finds out that dancing and rock music are banned there, but taking matters into his own hands, he soon has all hell breaking loose and the whole town on its feet. 

In Racky Plews’s touring production for Selladoor Productions and Runaway Entertainment, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! contestant and Hollyoaks actor Quickenden plays lovable cowboy Willard Hewitt, while Day takes the role of Reverend Shaw Moore.

“I used to work as a bricklayer at the steelworks in Scunthorpe, where I was born, and Willard is a cowboy and a bit of a mechanic, so I can do the physical stuff,” says Jake, 33. “He’s fun to play; he’s quite stupid – I don’t have to get into character!

“It’s a fun, upbeat song-and-dance show, where everyone knows the words, and it’s all actor-musos, playing instruments, rather than just having a band.”

What’s your instrument? “I play the guitar on four or five songs. I’ve played the guitar for about nine years now, self-taught, starting when I was 23/24, doing it from YouTube,” says Jake, who also picked up Willard’s accent from watching a few TV shows and You Tube. “If I’m honest, I picked it up quite quickly when, as a northern lad, I normally don’t find accents that easy.”

Jake, who played the title role in Peter Pan at Blackpool Opera House, toured with The Dreamboys and starred in the 50th anniversary of Hair The Musical, is teaming up with Darren Day for the first time. 

“I’d never met him before. He’s an absolute pleasure to work with ; he’s been around the block doling musicals for three decade, and I’ve been picking up a lot from him. He’s such a humble guy,” he says. “It’s really important for the young people in the cast, straight out of performing arts schools, to have the chance to work with him.”

Darren, 53, says of his latest role: I’m so happy to be playing the Reverend. Over a decade ago, I met with the producers for Footloose and Chicago within about three months of each other. I was told I didn’t look old enough! So, the only downside of me playing these two roles back-to-back is that I must now look ‘old enough’.

O happy Day: Darren Day playing Reverend Moore in Footloose The Musical, as he ticks off one of his bucket list of roles he desperately wanted to do

“Since those meetings all those years ago, Billy Flynn and the Reverend have been on my bucket list of roles I desperately wanted to play, so to get the opportunity to play them both in one year is incredibly exciting for me and I feel deeply grateful.

“Having a teenage daughter myself in real life, I have a lot of ‘method’ experience to draw upon [for Reverend Moore]! It’s tough letting your ‘little princess’ out into the big bad world!”

Darren is revelling in being in Racky Plews’s touring show. “This production of Footloose is particularly special. Even if you have seen it before, you will want to see it again, and this new version will blow you away. It’s been reworked with a new set, new costumes. The lot,” he says.

“Racky has brought an edgy and exciting new take on the show. She’s been working closely with the writer of the original movie and songs, Dean Pitchford, and his input into this new production has been invaluable.”

Assessing what keeps Footloose both fresh and popular at the box office, Darren says:  “The great thing about Footloose, which I think separates it from other ‘jukebox’ shows, is that Dean Pitchford wrote the songs specifically for the movie. 

“So, not only are these songs instantly recognisable the second the intro begins, they also carry the plot forward in a very truthful way. Apologies for that sounding incredibly ‘arty’ and ‘theatrical’, but they do!

“In the show there are these massive hit tunes that everyone recognises, along with a strong and beautiful storyline. It’s a really feel-good show – no doubt about it.”

Meanwhile, Jake continues to enjoy taking on challenges, whether winning Dancing On Ice in 2018, heading to the Aussie jungle, doing musicals and pantomime or making his soap opera debut in Hollyoaks. “It was just a guest appearance in eight episodes, playing a character called Woody, and funnily enough he was a builder,” he says. Was he killed off? “No, he wasn’t! I’d love to go back.”

Now, Jake is riding out as cowboy Willard. “I love testing myself doing new things, giving everything a go once, and I’ve really loved doing musicals. Though I’ve done things where I might not do them again, like The Dreamboys [the male revue show]. I tried it, enjoyed it, but I’d like to move on. It didn’t push me to do what I want to do, but it’s good for keeping in shape!”

Footloose gotta cut loose at York Theatre Royal from March 29 to April 2 (not from March 28, as first announced). Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.