THE award-winning West Cliff Youth Theatre are set to wow audiences as they return with Footloose - the Musical.

The group have got their work cut out if they are to repeat the success of last year's remarkable production of Oliver.

But this time round, director Chris Bareham has gone for a change of direction and given her team something more modern to get their teeth into.

"It's not the most well-known show," she admits, "but I wanted to do something totally different to Oliver.

"It's got an interesting mix of music that people might not associate with it, such as Holding Out For A Hero and Let's Hear It For the Boy, as well as some really nice ballads."

Footloose tells the story of city boy Ren who moves to the backwood town of Bomont.

He is shocked to discover singing and dancing have been banned following a tragic accident which claimed the lives of four youngsters, including the Rev Shaw Moore's son Bobby.

Bobby's sister Ariel (Annie-May Kitchener) falls for Ren (Luke Grint) but her strict father (Jeremy Adams-Hall) forbids her from seeing him.

"The youngsters have to persuade the Reverend that it's okay to dance and sing," says Chris, who has been running the West Cliff Youth Theatre for more than eight years.

"There are some very, very poignant moments.

"We've got a cast of 37 and the youngest is just 11, but some are in their 20s.

"There is a lovely duet between the main characters and some interesting interaction between Ariel and her father, who is the minister in this small town.

"There is a lot more depth than perhaps people think.

"It wasn't a show that I knew particularly well so it's been interesting. There is a lot of dancing which really stretches the cast to do something they haven't done before.

"There is a real feel-good factor – it's the perfect antidote to the winter blues.

"And there is something about youth theatre and the energy of young people acting and enjoying themselves."

Footloose – The Musical opens tonight at the West Cliff Theatre and runs until Saturday. Shows are at 7.30pm with a 2.30pm Saturday matinee.

Tickets are £9 from the box office on 01255 433344.