Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of A Chorus Line
Footloose is the story of Ren McCormack, a city boy from Chicago suddenly transplanted into the small rural town of Bomont after he and his mother are abandoned by his father. As the rebellious outsider, Ren is drawn to local girl Ariel, the minister's daughter, who is a rebel in her own way. Ariel clearly acts out against her father's strict wishes, and can't wait to leave the closed-minded Bomont. Upon Ren's arrival, the entire community is still mired in grief over the loss of four of its youths four years prior. In responding to the deaths, the town, led by the Reverend Shaw Moore, has outlawed dancing. Ren, who can't stand still physically or emotionally, takes up the charge to change the no-dancing law.
The musical Footloose is based on the 1984 movie of the same name starring Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow and Sarah Jessica Parker. The stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie features 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 on 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, "Footloose." The original production opened on Broadway on October 22, 1998, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, closing after 709 performances on July 2, 2000. It received four Tony Award nominations in 1999. There are current plans to produce the musical version of Footloose as a movie starring Zac Efron as Ren.
This production of Footloose features some really fine pop singing. Kara Guy as Rusty, Mary-Elizabeth Milton as Urleen, and Sara Catherine Barnes as Wendy Jo sing well individually, but as a trio, they produce a tight blend and fierce sound that is unbeatable. The choreography is well executed and fun. At times it is right on the mark, such as on "Footloose," "Holding Out For a Hero", "Still Rockin" and "Let's Hear It For The Boy." At other times it misses, such as a stagnant staging of "Somebody's Eyes" with our trio of girls circling like vultures, and "The Girl Gets Around" with its visually awkward choreographic use of tires. Some minor fight choreography needs to be addressed as it looks false. However, it is clear from the athletic and clean partnering work in the show that the dancers of Footloose are talented and energetic. The scenic design is serviceable but not elaborate. The best technically creative moment in the show is the "Almost Paradise" scene which takes place beneath a train trestle with a picturesque sky filled with stars and moon overhead. The costuming seems more representative than precise as it appeared to cross over repeatedly between '80s and '90s attire.
A script flaw in the stage adaptation is that there are a couple of characters that we want to see and know more that are simply short changed on dialogue. This is most true of Ren's mother Ethel, well played by Jennie Hollander-Carosiello. She is perfect for the role, but her character is left unexplored. It also seems odd to have a comic scene-stealing performance turned in by Elizabeth Loos as Betty Blast, and then never bring the character back. The show spends quite a bit of time on Reverend Shaw More. Thankfully, Glenn Wall is well suited to the role of the Reverend, and he sings and acts the part believably. He is partnered with Katherine Proctor as wife Vi, and she plays the part with warmth.
Erik Keiser is enjoyable as Ren. He acts and sings the part nicely, but is need of a bit more of an edge. Lindsay Luppino is talented and enjoyable as Ariel Moore, but a bit vague with her character. One is not sure if she really is a "good girl" or not, and if she really cares for Ren or he is just a way out. The choices need to be clearer. The teen couple is flanked by wonderful performances by Kara Guy as Rusty, and Michael Keenan Miller as Willard Hewitt. Guy is the perfect perky side-kick, with the added bonus of a killer singing voice. Tall and lanky Miller patiently plays the timid Willard, and then wins the audience over with a surprise demonstration of fine tumbling and singing ability. There always has to be a bad guy, of course, and Jeff Blim is good as the handsome and dangerous bad boy Chuck Cranston. It is a pleasure to hear the familiar pop songs in this show handled so well, and so close to the intent of their original style.
The Executive Producer of The Prather Entertainment Group is William T. Prather. Following in the footsteps of his successful parents, he is a second generation theatre producer. He has produced more than 254 shows in the past 20 years, and under his direction The Prather Entertainment Group has grown into the largest operator of dinner theatres in the United States. Current operations include the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater in Fort Myers, FL, the Dutch Apple Dinner Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre West in Mesa, Arizona, as well as national touring productions such as Footloose. For more information on this tour of Footloose please go to www.footloosetour.com.
This production of Footloose appeared February 20 - 22, 2009 at The Parker Playhouse. The Parker Playhouse is located at 707 NE 8th St. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For information on The Parker Playhouse and their season you may contact them at 954-763-2444 or online at www.parkerplayhouse.com.
* Designates member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc, and independent national labor union.