FOOTLOOSE, The Musical
By Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie.
Directed by Sarah Combs
It helps when more than half the audience is either related to, or next door neighbors of someone in the cast.
It helps when Sarah Combs, an accomplished director and performer in her own right takes an eager collection of 12 – 19 year olds – many of whom are her students at Arlington High School in Lagrangeville, N.Y. – and introduces them to a musical she knows well.
It also helps when the collective energy, stamina, enthusiasm and raw talent of the young actors, singers and dancers on stage are apparent in every production number, even every scene change.
So it is with FOOTLOOSE, this season’s Youth Theater presentation at Sharon Playhouse, Amenia Road in Sharon, Conn. The show is in very limited run – it closes on Sunday afternoon, July 16th, with a 2 p.m. matinee. With the last rhythmic spin and jubilant bow, this offering can certainly be considered a great success.
Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie created this stage adaptation of Pitchford’s original screenplay for the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon. Various musicians contributed songs to the score, including Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman and Kenny Loggins. The results of these combined efforts resulted in a kind of youth manifesto that continues to find its way onto youth theater production lists and provides a platform to showcase multiple voices.
The Sharon Playhouse production follows in the footsteps, if you will, of a long line of productions by allowing emerging young stars to find their moments in the spotlight. The effort is a solid one and the results are impressive and enjoyable.
Sophie Rundhaug’s portrayal of Ariel Moore, the contrarian preacher’s daughter, combines just enough rebelliousness and dreams of getting on the nightly train to escape the town of Bomont with the sweetness of a daughter who still cares about her family. Sophie’s voice is strong and her dancing reflects years of diligent training. Her pursuit of a college degree in musical theater comes as no surprise.
As her three girlfriends, Rusty, Urleen and Wendy Jo … Kelly Follette, Kirby Sciafani and Anna Spendley … are great comic relief. Rusty’s attempts to bring Willard Hewitt, played with charming, clumsy naivete by Nicholas Scott, from frog to prince provides a welcome parallel to the real love story that carries the show.
It is Ren McCormick who comes into Bomont with a chip on his shoulder, a deep-seated pain caused by a deadbeat father and an eagerness to dance as a way of expressing his complex emotions that is the real story on FOOTLOOSE. Liam Grimaldi, a young actor who won notoriety in the local area for his performances in HELLO DOLLY, THE BOYFIREND and CHICAGO while in high school owns the evening. With a year of college drama experience behind him, Liam’s dancing, singing and full control of the stage make every moment he is in the limelight a special one. He puts on a singing, dancing, acting clinic for two hours that simply radiates with his talent.
There are other standouts in the FOOTLOOSE cast, notably the performances of Nicolas Penn and Haley Napier as Rev. Shaw Moore and his long-suffering wife, Vi, as well as Isabel Penn as Ren’s mother, Ethel. All three have well-trained, expressive voices that bring welcome shading to the conflicts and struggles of wounded parents attempting to both protect and encourage their children.
Director Combs is to be congratulated for not only building an entertaining production, but for assembling a technical crew that works beautifully together. Grace Mihalchik’s choreography is fluid and energetic. Musical Director Jacob Carll has coached the young cast well and conducts a well balanced and responsive ensemble.
Those without a rooting interest in one or more of the actors on stage will not mistake Sharon Playhouse’s Youth Theater production of FOOTLOOSE for a professional offering by rising young performers aching for the chance to appear on Broadway. They will, however, get to marvel at the sheer exuberance of a group of talented young men and women who so obviously enjoy inviting the audience to join them in being …FOOTLOOSE.
“Footloose” is playing Saturday, July 15 and Sunday, July 16 at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Connecticut. For information and tickets consult The Berkshire Edge calendar or call the Sharon Playhouse box office at 860-364-7469.