by Erin Thursby
For those of you familiar with the movie starring Kevin Bacon, the plot of the Alhambra’s Footloose, is basically the same, except that people tend to sing the songs that were on the soundtrack of the original play. Besides 80s hits such as Holding Out for a Hero, Let’s Hear it for the Boy and the titular Footloose, there are also original songs slipped in between, such as the slower and more character-driven Learning to be Silent.
Tony Triano, always an Alhambra favorite, appears as the pedantic but well-meaning Reverend Moore, who has convinced the town to put a moratorium on dance because of a car accident that killed several of the town’s young people coming from a dance. Looking for something to blame, the town accepts the Reverend’s belief that dancing (along with rock ‘n roll) is the root of all evil.
Jeremy Dumont, and his fabulous hair, fills the role of Ren McCormick, a city boy transplant bent on changing the law and making Bomont the kind of town where you can dance. Sporting hot pink converse, a skinny tie and a turned up collar, Dumont loads the role with a smart-assed charm.
Ren’s love interest is none other than the Reverend’s daughter, bad girl Ariel Moore (played by Katherine Weatherford). Weatherford seems comfortable in the part and connects emotionally with others on stage. I did want to see more of that anger bubbling just beneath the surface; the dangerous edge of a bad girl, but it just didn’t seem to fit with the air of the musical. Like Ren she was more sympathetic than angry. She fit the part and musical exactly as she should have.
Ariel is often accompanied by a trio of girls, the red-headed Rusty (Allison Davis), Urleen (Amy Eller) and Wendy Jo (Miranda Lawson). Each of these girls brought excellent vocals to their songs and are a joy to watch.
Todd Michael Cook plays the always pugilistic but kind hearted Willard, who befriends Ren. Cook quickly endears the audience to the character.
What all of these actors have in common is that they know how to listen to each other, or at least they do when their characters do. Dumont and Weatherford use this synergy in their love ballad, as do Dumont and Triano when they finally start to understand each other.
The performances of Patti Eyler as Ethel McCormick (Ren’s mom) and Lisa Valdini as Vi Moore (wife to the Reverend and mother to Ariel) are the bones of the show. Don’t mistake them for background. Without their believability and strength, everything else would come off as hollow. These two ladies carry it off-and then some.
While I dearly loved the 80s costuming in this show, I do have one bone of contention. In the script Ariel’s boots are mentioned as red. They are pink. Decidedly. And they clash with true red, which the character wears for most of the play. Other than that, I spent most of the play happily nostalgic, yet embarrassed, that I had owned similar items such as a denim rhinestone top cinched by a ruched white belt.
One dancer stood out from the rest for me-new comer Soontaree Jaisin-Simms. While she didn’t have a main role, she stood out even before I read her many credentials. Hopefully we’ll see her on the Alhambra stage again!
At the end of the play there’s a big dance number. Towards the end, Mrs. McCormick has a tux-wearing Chuck Cranston on her arm. He’s the slightly older boy (probably about 18 to 20 or so) that dated Ariel in the beginning of the play. Billy Fisher, who plays the part of Chuck, is distinctive enough that putting him in a suit wasn’t enough to disassociate him from the part. It’s something I think that they should keep because there’s nothing wrong with a little cougar action! It made me smile. Mrs. McCormick could totally straighten out that bad boy. Plus, he’s handsome in a suit.
The rebellion in the musical Footloose seems less harmless than the rebellion in the film, but it’s more fun than the movie was. It’s difficult not to make the comparison between the two, but the musical just feels more wholesome, like family fare rather than dance revolution fodder. Things are fairly light-hearted in the first act, but after intermission, be prepared to reach for your tissues.
by Erin Thursby