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Everybody cut Footloose
Get ready to cut loose and kick off those Sunday shoes when a young cast of triple threats bring Footloose to the Vernon stage.
Local musical theatre company, Lights of Broadway, is back at it with a foot stompin’ show after last year’s hugely successful presentation of Hairspray.
This year, the dancing and singing spectacle comes from another movie-turned-Broadway musical that, like Hairspray, is about standing up for what you believe in, said Lights of Broadway director Charity Van Gameren.
“I swore to myself that I would not do another dance show, but there are similarities between Footloose and Hairspray that I couldn’t ignore,” said Van Gameren, who runs her musical theatre program out of the Vernon Community Music School and has staged large-scale musicals in town every year for the past 14 years.
However, unlike Hairspray, which was set in the ‘60s, Footloose revolves around the time when acid wash jeans and teased and gelled hair were all the rage.
“The musical brings waves of memory back to anyone who was a teenager in the 1980s, not just for the music and Kevin Bacon’s hair, but for the subject matter that still rings true today,” said Van Gameren.
The story is loosely based on a true-to-life story about a small, rural and religious community in Oklahoma that banned dancing for more than 80 years. In 1980, the town’s graduating class made history by getting permission to dance at the prom.
“Footloose is about standing up for what you believe in and overcoming hardship. As much as there is conflict, anger and tension between the teens and the adults, ultimately Footloose is about bridging the gap between generations. It is an enduring story of forgiveness and reconciliation,” said Van Gameren.
The musical, which made its debut on Broadway in 1998, follows the same storyline as the 1984 film, but instead of just dancing to the music, the cast actually sings (and dances) to classics as the title track (originally performed by Kenny Loggins), Let’s Hear it for the Boy (Deniece Williams), Holding Out For A Hero (Bonnie Tyler), Almost Paradise (Loverboy’s Mike Reno with Heart’s Ann Wilson) and others.
“The music is so ‘80s. It has that pop-rock feel and so many from that generation will know the songs, but it also has a serious story line. It’s about the fights and struggles that everyone can relate to,” said Van Gameren.
Although most of the young cast of 24 were not around when those particular songs were on the top 100, most know the story from the film remake of Footloose in 2011, and say it still resonates.
“I think we all can relate, even if we’re not dancing in rebellion, about things we find unfair,” said Sydney Cochrane, who plays Rusty (played by Sarah Jessica Parker in the original film.)
“It’s about an identity crisis and the relationship between a father and his daughter and Ariel is the most rebellious of the bunch,” said Megan Barss, who embodies the role originally played by Lori Singer of TV’s Fame.
Playing Ariel’s preacher dad, Rev. Shaw Moore (made famous by John Lithgow), is Matt McDowell, who says his character is dealing with grief and has been channeled into action to get his community to ban dancing and rock music.
“It’s the only thing that he knows what to do and it’s easy to get everyone on his side because five young people died after a night out,” he said. “The adults have lost hope, while the youth need realism and they need hope.”
Standing up to the reverend is outsider Ren MacCormack (Ethan Swift, playing the titular role made famous by Bacon), who arrives in the town from Chicago and starts to shake up the community’s moral code.
“Ren is a guy used to the opposite in life. He’s from Chicago and believes in partying all the time. He’s not used to rules and thinks everyone hates him,” said Swift, whose name is apt as Van Gameren says he is quite the fast learner when it comes to the dance moves.
Ren does manage to befriend one of his fellow students, Willard, a friendly yokel with two left feet, who was played by the late Chris Penn and is embodied here by Van Gameren’s son Joshua who is making his second appearance on stage. (He played the announcer in last year’s Hairspray.)
“I can’t dance, so it’s perfect casting,” he laughed.
Taking on bad guy Chuck Cranston is Logan Ramsey, a former musical theatre student who retired at age 12 and is back at it, and insists his role is not “typecasting.”
Leading the cast in the many energetic and demanding dance numbers is choreographer Cherise McInnis, while acting coach Sara Mori has helped the actors dig deep into the more intense scenes.
“It’s been a good therapy session. There’s scenes where you actually feel drained, then a song gets you super pumped and makes you want to get up and dance,” said Barss.
Set designers Mark and Liza Judd are back after building the set for Hairspray, while the Performing Arts Centre’s Erin Kennedy is returning to her theatre roots as the show’s lighting designer.
“We are very thankful for their expertise to our show,” said Van Gameren.
The toe-tapping, finger-snapping nostalgic trip takes the stage at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. The show is rated PG (the language has been toned down from the film versions.) Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.