REVIEW: ‘Footloose’ is fun vehicle for young actorsMitchell Area Community Theatre has kicked off its season with a familiar musical filled with toe-tapping 1980s-era pop songs.
By: Julie Brookbank , ACT Reviewer
Mitchell Area Community Theatre has kicked off its season with a familiar musical filled with toe-tapping 1980s-era pop songs. A mostly young college and high school cast plays age-appropriate parts, supported by some familiar adult faces. This hybrid proves a great showcase for younger artists and a chance to work with people who have kept their theater passion for a lifetime.
“Footloose” is taken from the 1998 Broadway adaptation of the 1984 film. Ren McCormick and his mother arrive in the fictional tiny town of Bomont to live with Ren’s aunt and uncle after Ren’s father walks out. A boy accustomed to the variety of life in Chicago, Ren must adjust to being the outsider in an insular place, and the oppressive social life of a town ruled by a conservative pastor. Forms of music and entertainment Ren is familiar with — particularly dancing — are out of the question. Even so, his attraction to the pastor’s rebellious daughter Ariel grows.
Among the adults, highlights include Brett Farnham who finds that tricky balance as the pastor, displaying passionate conviction while still evoking the isolating toll it brings. As the pastor’s wife caught in an impossible position between the absolutes of her husband and the intense fury of her daughter, Trudy Morgan becomes the soul of sympathetic frustration. Devin Carey appears as the crusty athletic coach, and Ashley Klinkhammer ably plays Ren’s mother.
As for the younger actors, Reid Determan warms into a charming Ren, vibrant with enthusiasm. Jenna Callies, in her first ACT acting role, gives Ariel that “bad girl who could be a good girl” vibe. Standouts among the leads include Maggie Smith as Ariel’s buddy, Rusty. Her vibrancy, timing and commitment to her character power several important scenes. This is matched by Chris Ferera’s gee-whiz country boy, who becomes the object of Rusty’s affection. The two are genuinely charming and provide many of the show’s highlights. Leather-jacket clad Tim Letcher plays a credible town bad boy.
First-time director Jessica Phillips has put together some solid solo and ensemble musical performances. Particularly affecting are the lovely close harmony moments on songs like “Learning to Be Silent” and “Somebody’s Eyes.” The dance numbers, choreographed by several cast and crew, are energetic and fun. Watch for the “blowing wind” effect on the dancing girls provided by boys’ cowboy hats in “Holding Out for a Hero.”
Technically, the set is simple, and similar to earlier productions, incorporating a two-level set that remains throughout the show. Like “Cabaret” last season, the band is seated on stage. This can cause some sound issues. There were times during several numbers that the lyrics were difficult to hear as the musical accompaniment was louder than the singing.
“Footloose” the movie has become a part of America’s cultural DNA. Watching a new generation play out the old struggle between dreams of freedom and the seemingly oppressive adult world is a lot of fun. Watching a new generation of performers begin their theatrical journey is even more so.
The show by Area Community Theatre has performances Friday, Aug. 10, and Saturday, Aug. 11, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 12, at 2 p.m. at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre. Tickets are on sale at the theater or more information is available at 996-9137 or mitchellact.org.