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SAN DIEGO
Regional Reviews by Bill Eadie

Footloose
Welk Resorts Theatre

Footloose
The Cast of Footloose
Footloose The Musical, at the Welk Resorts Theatre north of San Diego, is a 1990s musical based on a 1980s movie, but it really has a faux-1950s sensibility. Its success hinges on the production's ability to excite the audience, and the large, hard-working, cast at the Welk is only partially successful in doing so.

The plot of Footloose is both familiar and formulaic. Ren McCormack (Luke Yellin) and his mother (Eileen Bowman) are forced to move from Chicago to the home of relatives in rural Bomont after Ren's father walks out unexpectedly. Ren is used to a big city lifestyle, and he rebels at the restrictions on youth in Bomont. These restrictions are led by Reverend Shaw Moore (Gary Lee Reed), who has not gotten over his son's tragic death four years earlier. Ren also falls for the pastor's daughter, Ariel (Shanon Mari Mills), who is already dating the town bad boy, Chuck Cranston (Joey Elrose). Ren decides to bring his rebellion into full flower by challenging the town's law against dancing.

Original screenplay author Dean Pitchford adapted his material for the stage with the assistance of Broadway director Walter Bobbie. Mr. Pitchford included several songs from the film, including hits such as "Let's Hear It For The Boy," "Almost Paradise" and the title song. He also wrote additional songs with composer Tom Snow. While the chart-toppers are clearly intended to be pop hits, the additional material has a more conventional, Broadway feel to it, though none of that material is particularly distinguished.

The charm, of course, comes from cast connecting with audience, and here the Welk production, under the tutelage of Director-Choreographer Dan Mojica, seems more than a little forced at times. Especially near the beginning of the show, the younger cast members are "selling" the material too hard and competing with each other for audience focus. Things settle down a bit when the older characters come onstage, particularly Cynthia Ferrer, who brings a patient wisdom to the role of the pastor's wife, Vi Moore. Mr. Reed proves to be effectively stubborn without becoming caricatured, and Ms. Mills displays a nice singing voice and her Ariel shows an ability to stand up to men who want to dominate her. Marci Ann Wuebben has a nice turn as dancing waitress Betty Blast. Among the younger cast, Allen Everman threatens to walk off with the show as Willard Hewitt, Ren's shy and none-too-bright buddy.

Mr. Yellin makes a likeable Ren who sings pleasantly. But Ren is supposed to be a natural dancer who is always on the move. As a dancer Mr. Yellin allows us to see Ren sweat, and his moves look practiced. Putting him onstage with men such as Mr. Elrose, Omar Garibay, and Kyle Short, each of whom move in much more dancer-like ways, only compounds the problem in this choreography-dominated show.

The Welk stage is well equipped but really too small for the number of people who are onstage at the same time. Mike Buckley's set, with its opaque panels, industrial look and mostly uninteresting projections, forces the staging into small spaces and results in blocked views of upstage action. Sharell Martin has designed the mostly unflattering costumes, while Jennifer Edwards-Northover and Patrick Hoyny provide flashy lighting effects and solid sound design.

Footloose runs through June 27. Check the schedule before booking, as the Welk performs mostly at matinee times.

Welk Resorts Theatre presents Footloose The Musical, stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford. Music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, and Jim Steinman.

Directed and choreographed by Don Mojica, produced by Joshua Carr, music direction by Justin Gray. Set design by Mike Buckley, costume design by Sharell Martin, sound design by Patrick Hoyny, prop design by Crystal Burden, lighting design by Jennifer Edwards-Northover.

With Luke Yellin, Eileen Bowman, Gary Lee Reed, Cynthia Ferrer, Shanon Mari Mills, Marci Anne Wuebben, John Brzesiak, Shauna Hart Ostrom, Bryan Feldman, Shanna Marie Palmer, Kaitlyn Terrill, Joyelle Cabato, Joey Elrose, Omar Garibay, Kyle Short, and Allen Everman.

Tickets ($44-$75) available by calling (888) 802-7469, (760) 749-3448, or by purchasing online at The Welk Resorts Theatre website.


Photo: Marc Northover

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie

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