David Ponsler, Karin Tucker and Ken Shutes

The Foundation Academy of Jacksonville performs its annual musical every spring and it is a total school project for this school with grades 1 through 12. For 2012, “Footloose” was an excellent selection, as it delves into teenagers frustration and impatience over restrictive limits and laws, and celebrates their ability to make changes, themes to which all students can relate.
The musical was based on the 1984 film that starred Kevin Bacon, which was filled with some wonderful songs and great dancing. The story is that of city teenager Ren (Melvin Reynolds) who leaves Chicago with his mother Ethel (Brianna Campbell) after being abandoned by his father, to start life over in the small town of Bomont. Ren discovers that dancing has been outlawed because the local hellfire minister, Reverend Moore (Nicholas Ross Augustini), lost a son in an auto accident that occurred after a teenage dance. Ren sets out to change the rules and enlists the help of the minister’s daughter Ariel (Tasia Bosch Dupree). All the kids in town pitch in as well; they’ve been finding the town very boring, with nothing for them to do.
The musical is filled with interesting characters like Vi Moore (Amanda Brady) the minister’s wife who is really on the side of the kids; Willard Hewitt (Joe Mahoney), an awkward and shy teen, who finally comes into his own and sings “Momma Says,” the funniest song in the show; Chuck Cranston (Jason Cremer) the town’s bad boy teenager, and former boyfriend of Ariel; and Coach Roger Dunbar (Bobby McKenzie) who is very much against dancing. Principal Harry Clark, as played by Charles Mayfield, was the picture of authority in a very powerful portrayal.
Zach Pridgen as singer Cowboy Bob performs at the dance that launches the change in the laws about dancing. Jackie Logan, Jahri Bessellieiu and Airika Stone are Wendy Jo, Urleen, and Rusty, three girls who hang out with each other and sing as a trio, reminded us of The Supremes. Rounding out the cast and appearing in the ensemble and in multiple roles were: Megan Vanway, Tyler Martell, Jamie Clark, Karina Blanchard, Samantha Johnson, Shaunna Preston, Catalina Gonzalez, Jahannah Tarkington, Hayley Rodriguez, Noah Rodden and AJ Langella.
As choreographers, Chris Medina and Sydney Words did an excellent job, especially considering most of the performers had little or no previous dance experience. Indeed this was a very professional production for a school with about 250 students. The band, lead by well known Musical Director Shelli Long on piano, had Walter Hill on guitar, Eddy Foye (drums), Brad Connolley (bass) and Dave Williams as the sound engineer. All of the principals were miked so we were able to hear every song clearly.
This was the directing debut for Tom Fallon at Foundation, who is well known throughout the North Florida area as a performer, director, and set designer. Fallon and Jim Lynch designed the expansive set in red and white brick, which consisted of three large arches, stairs, and a second story platform. Stage furnishings – a pulpit, chairs, and tables – were easily moved on and off when needed.
Tina Fallon designed and co-ordinated the costumes and there were many of them. They ranged from very informal everyday wear to country western dress, black sequin sheaths, and formal gowns, and the frequent changes were a visual delight.
The production was a major undertaking for a school that has only about 40 students in the Junior and Senior classes, and several in the cast were on stage for the first time anywhere. Students not on stage performed all of the technical and backstage duties so essential to making a show run smoothly. Many of the singing voices were still developing but what they may have lacked in technique they more than made up for with energy and enthusiasm. Mr. Fallon’s directing was indeed a rousing success; just ask any member of the very enthusiastic and thoroughly entertained opening night audience.
We will no doubt be seeing some of this cast performing on community theatre stages in the future. The Foundation Academy’s campus is located at 3675 San Pablo road off Beach Blvd just before the Intracoastal Waterway. “Footloose” has three more performances on May 4, 5 at 8 PM and May 6 at 2 PM. Tickets are a bargain at $10.00, especially as you will be seeing the future theatre stars of North Florida. Call (904) 493-7300 for more information.