Imagine a town where, no matter what the circumstances, by law, you cannot dance. No senior prom, no first dance at a wedding reception, nothing. You may think this sounds ridiculous, but that is the way of life in Bomont, the small Southern town that W.T. Woodson's Performing Arts Department whisks their audience away to in their production of "Footloose."
"Footloose," the musical, is rare in that it is based on the 1984 movie "Footloose," the reverse of the usual stage-to-screen progression. The musical opened on Broadway in 1998, and was Tony Award nominated. The musical was adapted for the stage by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford. The plot follows the teenage dance king Ren McCormack's move from Chicago to Bomont and his trouble adjusting to the Southern propriety, customs and, most of all, Bomont's strict anti-dancing law.
Ariel Moore, daughter of Bomont's Rev. Shaw Moore, captures Ren's heart as they connect over love, loss and frustrations with their lives. Ariel and Ren lead the youth of Bomont to protest the anti-dancing law in an ending that displays the weight of human understanding and compassion along with evidence that people, no matter how set in their ways, can change.
The enthusiasm and energy of the W.T. Woodson players anchored the production of "Footloose." The animated performances of the catchy and familiar tunes of "Footloose" and the vigor brought to the dance numbers were uplifting. The immense talents of Brendan Rice and Kirsten Salpini, who portrayed Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore respectively, truly shone. Rice's natural humor and talent for dancing and singing made him seem one with his character and Salpini's singing and dancing virtuosity and amazing stage presence left the audience wanting more each time she stepped out of sight. Their collaborative musical number, "Almost Paradise," fantastically highlighted their talents as solo and duet performers.
The supporting cast of "Footloose" made the plot transcend the stage and transported the audience straight to the scene of the action. Sara Persily and Camille Loomis, who portrayed Ariel's friends Urleen and Wendy Jo, added character with their dancing and singing proficiency.
A true standout couple was Alyssa Easterly and Robert Moorman, playing the endearingly and humorously awkward lovers Rusty and Willard.
Luke Savoca's portrayal of Chuck Cranston, Ariel's rough and abusive ex-boyfriend, was truly believable through his manifestation of all things "bad boy."
Lastly, Max Wollner and Mia Savoca, portraying Rev. Shaw Moore and his wife Vi, brought great vocals and realistic character portrayals to the show. The minimalist nature of the set, makeup and costumes added a simplicity to the production that corresponded well with the small-town setting.
All in all, W.T. Woodson's production of "Footloose" should be applauded and is highly recommended. The obvious effort and love of theater of the players were very apparent in the way they performed, and their passion is what made the performance truly memorable.