Footloose and fancy free, right? Nope. There is no dancing in the dusty, rural Texas town, but plenty in this fun show with good singing and dancing. Produced by Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre, Footloose the musical is running now through June 25.
In several ways, this live musical seems to have more substance than the movie of the same name. There are some significant themes (which echo eerily in today’s world) such as book banning, fundamentalist religion, urban vs. rural sensibilities, spousal abandonment, male superiority, and the ubiquitous teenage angst. At the same time, the musical maintains the electricity, excitement and exuberance of the first time you saw the film. Director and Choreographer Eric Byrd and Music Director Damon Stevens expertly tie in all the singing, drama and dancing.
The Culture Clash of Footloose
Rebellious and bitter Ren (Evan Blust) and his mother Ethel (Kate Stark) move to small town Texas from Chicago to live with her sister after Ethel’s husband abandons them. Reverend Shaw Moore (Jamie Cordes), the leader of Beaumont, TX, has coerced the town council to prohibit dancing because it leads to drugs, alcoholism and depravity, due to a fatal accident five years before which took his own son. Thus, we have the classic culture clash between “high living” urban settings and a mundane, controlled existence in the rural west.
The show opens in Chicago with the exuberant title song “Footloose.” The entire cast joyously dances which defines the contrast with the “dance-bereft” Texas plains of the next scene. The uptight, dogmatic minister preaches to his flock about the evils in society with the song “On Any Sunday.” While the good reverend is trying to staunch external “evils” his own daughter Ariel (Savannah Slaby) is galavanting with the town delinquents. Her boyfriend Chuck (Ethan Kuchta) has fun with the rowdy and suggestive song “The Girl Gets Around.”
Meanwhile, Ren is not adjusting to the stifling rural existence. He proclaims his frustration with “I Can’t Stand Still,” while demonstrating his dancing prowess. Ren has an ally in the shy Willard (Josh Galloway) who tries to integrate Ren into the group.
In an interesting take, Ariel’s friends Rusty (Juno Brosas), Urleen (Makayla Shipe) and Wendy Jo (Chloe Olivia Esmeier) function like a classic Greek Chorus while warning Ren that “Somebody’s Eyes” are constantly watching the “new kid” and pronouncing judgement. Snippets of the song are effectively repeated throughout the show as cautionary reminders. Ariel, her mother Vi (Marya Cordes) and Ren’s mother Ethel explain their joint agony of coping with loss and sour relationships in the haunting “Learning to be Silent.”
Ariel and her girlfriends discuss their love-lives (or lack thereof) with the rousing production number “Holding out for a Hero.” Ren, now completely frustrated with his situation, convinces his schoolmates to defy the law and go dancing in the first act finale “I’m Free” against the counterpoint of the adults extolling “Heaven Help Me.”
Willard, who is secretly in love with Rusty, admits that he does not know how to dance. In a good comic song/dance routine, Ren shows Willard some moves in another movie hit “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.”
The score is written by Tom Snow with lyrics by Dean Pitchford who also wrote the original screenplay and the stage adaptation. Other contributors include Eric Carmen, Sammy Hager, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman. The original movie score is augmented by new songs written for the stage version. Four major hits from the movie, including the title song, are included.
The Production Team
The basic set, designed by Brett Bowling, is simple but subtle. Mid-stage is a multi- purpose structure which substitutes for a schoolroom, the minister’s dining room and a nightclub. The structure appears dilapidated with rust spots. Various props account for the differing locations. Costumes by Beth Joss and June Hill are primarily rural western garb, teen outfits, cowboy boots and sneakers and, finally, tuxedos for the ending high school prom.
Overall, this is a very good production with good dancing, excellent singing and good timing from the entire cast. Evan Blust (as Ren) has a good voice, excellent dancing skills and is believable in the character arc from sullen to victorious. Savannah Slaby (as Ariel) is outstanding as both singer and dancer while petite Juno Brosas belts her songs with reckless abandon. Josh Galloway (Willard) is delightful as the comic diversion.
Get Your Tickets to Footloose
So, grab your cowboy boots (the ones with taps on) and mosey on down to the Incline Theater to see Footloose running through June 25. Call 513-241-6550 or get TICKETS HERE.