My friend Adrienne and I attended the Media Night performance during the opening weekend of “Footloose” at the Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre on the northwest side of Indianapolis. I enjoyed it, but then I had a run of home computer problems, so I am only getting around to writing about the show now.
Being without a computer (or other writing and sharing tools) is like being forbidden to dance: you don’t realize how important writing and dancing are to your emotional and mental well-being until you can’t do them.
Teenager Ren McCormack (Dominic Sheahan-Stahl) used to dance off his stress in clubs in Chicago before his parents’ divorce forced him to move with his mom to a tiny rural town called Bomont. In Bomont, dancing is both illegal and frowned upon by the local minister, Rev. Shaw Moore (Eddie Curry.) It is obvious to Ren that everyone in Bomont is suffering because of the ban, but instead of listening to his suggestions, everyone just thinks he is obnoxious. In fact, his rebelliousness is what draws him to the minister’s daughter, Ariel Moore (Erin P. West.) She has reasons of her own for wanting attention. Ren wins over the other teenagers and arranges for a dance for them in a nearby town. Eventually, he wins over the minister, too.
That’s the surface story of both “Footloose” the movie and “Footloose” the stage version.
When “Footloose” the movie first came out, I was an undergrad, not much older than the teens in the story. I remember thinking that while I liked a lot of the songs, and while I liked the idea of a young nobody making a positive difference in his world, the story itself was pretty stupid and unbelievable. Who would ban dancing “nowadays”?
According to the “Fun Facts” in my B&B media kit, though, “Footloose was inspired by a true (contemporary) story. In 1980, high school students in Elmore City, Oklahoma, protested an ordinance that made dancing illegal. When the clash between the students and church elders was over, the town, founded in 1861, had its first dance.”
Now that I am in my late 40s, I unfortunately have no trouble believing that stupidity exists in real life. On the other hand, I believe and applaud even more the idea that seemingly powerless individuals can make a difference.
I also still like the title song and others such as “Holding Out for a Hero” and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.”
So, as I say, I enjoyed my first experience of the staged version. The dancing (choreographed by Doug King) is full of hilarious air-punching and leg twitching, just like in the movie. Brian Horton’s costumes bring back the 1980s in ways that made me both cringe and feel wistful. (My prom date wore a tux like that!) Leads Dominic Sheahan-Stahl and Erin P. West do a good job of making the famous roles of Ren and Ariel their own. The other teens and townspeople* are somehow both stylized and believable.
And in a nice bit of icing, both the guy who plays Ren’s friend, Willard (Happy Mahaney), and the guy who plays Ren’s nemesis, Chuck (Maxim Gukhman), are deliciously detailed and crush-worthy.
I expected a night of fun fluff, and I got that, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, and to my surprise, what I loved most about this show was the minister’s transformation. He was stuck in grief, and then, through God’s grace and God’s use of a rebellious teenager, his heart finally cracked open again. Eddie Curry’s portrayal of that transformation moved me to tears.
“Footloose” continues at B&B through March 21, 2010, so you still have several chances to see it. Please call the Box Office at 317-872-9664 or visit www.beefandboards.com for more information or to make a reservation.
I’d also like to mention the kids’ show that is running concurrently with “Footloose” at Beef and Boards: “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.”
I don’t review kids’ shows because the focus of Indy Theatre Habit is live theatre and storytelling for adult audiences and I don’t have enough time to see everything as it is.
However, I do wish I had time to see B&B’s production of “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” because of the people in it. Tyler Braun is Aladdin, Jessica Murphy is Jasmine, Scot Greenwell is one of the narrators, and there are several other actor/vocalists whose work I admire in several of the other roles.
Plus, I think the mix of talent under the direction of Elizabeth Stark and with choreography by Kenny Shepard must be working very well, because the run of the show was extended almost the moment it opened.
The next main show at Beef and Boards will be the award-winning crowd-pleaser “Hello, Dolly!” Every time I give someone my blog card, I think of the fun main character in this show.
See you at the theatres!
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
Photos above by Julie Curry.
*”Footloose” was directed by Doug Stark with musical direction by Kristy Templet, choreography by Doug King, costumes by Brian Horton, scenic & lighting design by Michael Layton, sound design by Daniel Hesselbrock, and technical direction by Bill Mollencupp. Elizabeth Stark is the stage manager.
The stage adaptation is by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford. Music is by Tom Snow, with lyrics by Dean Pitchford and additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, and Jim Steinman.
The cast includes Dominic Sheahan-Stahl as Ren McCormack, Erin P. West as Ariel Moore, Eddie Curry as Rev. Shaw Moore, Amanda Lawson as Rusty, Da’Keisha N. Bryant as Wendy Jo, Cara Noel Antosca as Urleen, Happy Mahaney as Willard, Maxim Gukhman as Chuck/Cowboy, Tyler Christian Braun as Kris, Jarvis B. Manning Jr. as Ryan, Adam Chandler as Lyle, Megan McKinney as Ethel, Janet Essenpreis as Vi, Jeff Stockberger as Wes, Teresa Diehl as Lulu, and Darrin Murrell as Principal Clark.