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Theater Review:

Show has a lot to like

July 29, 2009|By Phillip Hain

The new production of “Footloose” at Glendale Centre Theatre very much reflects its protagonist in style and mood — energetic and a bit rough around the edges, but ultimately likable when you get to experience the complete package.

As with any stage play based on a film — in this case the well-known 1984 movie that featured Kevin Bacon in one of his first starring roles — the comparisons are inevitable. Many songs that were background themes in the movie are retained and used to advance the plot, while others are newly written for the stage play. I don’t know if it is familiarity or prejudice, but I favor the original songs over the new ones.

The plot has not changed. Ren McCormack (Harley Jay) is a Chicago teen who is preparing to move with his mother, Ethel (Alison Robertson), to a small town called Bomont after his father leaves the family. Life there revolves around the church, presided over by the strict reverend, Shaw Moore (George Champion), whose sensible but frustrated wife, Vi (Noel Britton), plays peacemaker between her husband and their defiant daughter, Ariel (Jayme Lake).

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At school, Ren befriends Willard (Joey Elrose) and quickly learns the prevailing mood over Bomont is repression. Ariel’s friend Rusty (Janet Krupin) is smitten with Willard and explains to a disbelieving Ren that dancing is forbidden ever since four teens were killed in a car accident years before. After a series of mishaps that brand Ren as a troublemaker, he sets out to improve his reputation and convince the townfolk to change the law and allow dancing.

“Footloose” is a play that relies on the strength of its main character to carry it, and Jay makes Ren totally believable. He’s angry about his absent father, frustrated at his forced living situation in a town that smothers him and overwhelmed by his affection for Ariel. His singing and dancing are excellent, and his rendition of “I Can’t Stand Still” sums up the multi-dimensions of his character.

As the “willful and obstinate” Ariel, Lake is well cast and shows the rebellious side of a girl who buries the affection she has for her father.

Champion’s stern minister is also a complex role, and his singing “Heaven Help Me” expresses the dilemma of a father wrestling with the challenge of watching his daughter grow up.

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