The successful 1984 film Footloose was more of an extended music video à la MTV than a movie musical. There was plenty of music, most of it written or co-written by composer Tom Snow (with individual tunes by Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman, and Eric Carmen among others) and lyricist/screenwriter Dean Pitchford, and it was popular; the soundtrack album topped the charts and sold eight million copies, and five singles -- "Almost Paradise," "Dancing in the Sheets," "Footloose," "Holding out for a Hero," "Free," and "Let's Hear It for the Boy" -- became hits. But the movie characters didn't sing those songs, and the songs were not directly tied into the plot. Thus, Pitchford, in turning his screenplay into a stage musical libretto, had the challenge of retaining the popular songs (only "Dancing in the Sheets" is missing) and somehow putting them into the mouths of the characters, while writing extra material to fill out the more extensive needs of a musical score. At the same time, the property's advantages for transfer to the stage were obvious: It was a known property, much of the score was already familiar, and, by definition, the plot involved a lot of dancing. When the show opened on Broadway on October 22, 1998, theater critics (known for their disdain of rock music) felt Pitchford had failed, but Footloose settled in for a long run. Perhaps inevitably, the cast album is not as impressive as the soundtrack, and the new songs Snow and Pitchford have written, such as the duet "Learning to Be Silent" and "Can You Find It in Your Heart?," are closer to character-based theater songs, but also inconsistent with the lively, rock tone of the familiar hits. Onstage, audiences never have long to wait for another driving, danceable production number, but the record's production never matches the sound of the original soundtrack.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann