Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The musical is a stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie with music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and additional numbers by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman. The creative team was able to build upon the popularity of the film and its hit songs such as "Let's Hear It For The Boy," "Holding Out For a Hero," "Almost Paradise" and the title song. Their efforts were rewarded with four Tony Award nominations in 1999. There are supposed plans to produce the musical version of Footloose as a movie starring Zac Efron in the lead role.
Footloose is the story of Ren McCormack, a city boy from Chicago suddenly transplanted into the small rural town of Beaumont. Upon Ren's arrival to Beaumont, the entire community is mired in grief over the recent loss of four of its youths. As a bit of the rebel outsider, Ren is drawn to local girl Ariel, the minister's daughter. Ariel, who is a rebel in her own way, can't wait to leave the closed-minded Beaumont. In responding to the deaths of the four youths, the town, led by the Reverend Shaw Moore, outlaws dancing. Ren, who is reeling from being abandoned by his father, takes up the charge to change the no-dancing law.
The technical aspects of this Actors' Playhouse production are in place, the choreography is fun, and the performances are mostly solid. Nathaniel Shaw is engaging and likeable as Ren; he has the singing and dancing talents to lead the cast. Shaw is well paired with Amy Miller Brennan, who brings a delightful feistiness to Ariel. Heather Jane Rolff is both charming and funny as Rusty.
While all of the actors, many of whom are well-known to South Florida theatergoers, do well by their characters, some of them are simply too old to be playing high school students. The talented Christopher A. Kent, who mines "Mama Says" for all its comic worth, would more appropriately have been cast as Willard's older brother.
There are some artistic choices that are problematic in this production. While Footloose is not a thinking person's musical, what little depth it does have is lost. In the original production, "Learning to be Silent" was a kitchen table duet between Vi Moore, the minister's wife, and Ethel McCormack, Ren's mother. It established an important connection between the two women, both mourning the loss of their husbands - one to grief and the other to abandonment. This production adds Ariel to the number and creates a trio of separate inner monologues, losing any connection between Vi and Ethel.
Despite being played by stage veteran Barry J. Tarallo, Shaw Moore's final monologue, during which he at long last comes to grips with his grief over losing his son, is inexplicably cut short. The audience misses sharing in the intended character's moment of enlightenment.
Footloose - The Musical appeared March 7 - April 6, 2008 at the Actors' Playhouse. The Actors' Playhouse is located at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, FL. Actors' Playhouse is a nonprofit professional regional theatre hiring local and non-local Equity and non-Equity actors. Actor's Playhouse produces musicals, comedies and children's theatre shows year round, and offers a full range of classes for all experience levels. Information and tickets may be obtained by contacting the theater at their box office at (305) 444-9293, or online at www.actorsplayhouse.org.
* Designates member of Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States