Ren McCormack is back at Bomont High and fighting for his fellow students’ right to “cut footloose” as Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre treats its audiences to a finger-snapping, toe-tapping revival of Broadway’s Footloose The Musical.
That ‘80s Hollywood classic introduced a heap of Top 40 hits, including the title song, “I’m Free,” “The Girl Gets Around,” “Holding Out For A Hero,” “Almost Paradise,” “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” and “Somebody’s Eyes.”
The resulting production ran for over 700 performances, and has since become a high school and college favorite.
Like the movie, Footloose The Musical follows teenage Ren (Andrew Russell) and his mother Ethel (Keely Milliken) from America’s third-largest city to the sticks of Bomont, where the two have come to seek refuge after being abandoned by Ren’s good-for-nothing dad.
It’s hard enough for a Chicago boy to adjust to life in the boonies, but when he learns that dancing is against the law inside city limits, it’s the last straw, and Ren determines to do something about it.
But first he must conquer the high school population, and so the fish-out-of-water newcomer turns himself into the boy all the girls want to be bad with, particularly Ariel (Emily Martin), the rebellious daughter of town preacher Shaw Moore (Jason Webb), compelled by a family tragedy to keep Bomont dance-free.
Abetted by his new best friend, the sweet but not-too-bright Willard (Spenser Micetich), and by Ariel’s best girlfriends Rusty (Chassey Bennett), Urleen (Taylor Barbata), and Wendy Jo (Emily Chelsea), Ren vows to bring dancing back to Bomont, if it’s the last thing he does.
Some may carp that Footloose The Musical lacks depth and that its characters are short in substance, but who in his right mind can complain when such a good time is being had by all, from the musical’s supremely talented young ensemble to audiences who’d like nothing better than to get up and dance along at the production’s grand-finale “Megamix.”
Candlelight Pavilion mainstay John LaLonde directs with flair, his stellar cast delivering one colorful performance after another.
Martin’s terrific Ariel shows off the power pipes that made her a memorable Eponine in MTW’s Les Miz opposite Russell’s dynamic Ren. (Sensational Southland triple-threat Michael Starr will take over as the object of Ariel’s affection beginning August 19.)
Candlelight favorite Micetich is nothing short of sensational as dim bulb Willard, showing off some fancy dancing in addition to a whole heap of good-ol’-boy charm, and Skrzek follows Oklahoma!’s Will Parker and Mary Poppins’ Bert with a standout cameo as bad boyfriend Chuck.
Ensemble members Sam Chlanda, Dylan David Farris, Michael Gonzalez, Kylie Molnar, Kayla Rowland, Matthew Ryan, Josh Tangermann, Adam Trent, and Erin Umphenour do some of the most high-energy teen dancing in town, with Chlanda (Eleanor) and Tangermann (Coach) earning bonus points for their adult roles.
As for the other grownups, real-life marrieds Webb and Webb dig deep and sing gorgeously as Ariel’s well-meaning parents, with colorful supporting work being done by Christa Havenhill (LuLu Warnicker, Irene), Millikan, and James Skousen (Wes Warnicker, Principal), Havenhill showing off Nashville pipes in “Let’s Make Believe We’re In Love.”
There’s hardly a dancier Broadway musical than Footloose The Musical, and choreographer Alison Hooper gives her young cast one energetic heel kicker-upper after another with which to dazzle, special snaps awarded to a nightclub-set “Holding Out For A Hero” featuring a mix of girl-group harmonizers, miniskirted go-go-dancing beauties, and four sexily sculpted shirtless male strippers
Musical director Rod Bagheri ensures that vocals match dance moves in pizzazz.
Chuck Ketter’s chameleon-like set is one of the best I’ve seen at Candlelight, costumes (coordinated by Merrill Grady) are colorful Midwest treats, and Steve Giltner’s lighting is striking as always. Michon Gruber-Gonzales’s wigs are topnotch too, and the sound mix is pitch perfect.
Daniel Bride is stage manager. Orlando Montes is technical director. Executive chef Juan Alvarado and sous chef Maria Sandoval serve up Candlelight’s invariably yummy cuisine. Kudos as always to Candlelight Pavilion owner/producer Ben D. Bollinger, general manager/vice president Michael Bollinger, acting producer Mindy Teuber, and especially to artistic director LaLonde.
Footloose The Musical may never make anyone’s list of Broadway greats, but it’s long been a personal favorite of mine thanks to its catchy songs, its infectious dance numbers, and the young triple-threats who get perform them both. Check it out at Candlelight and see if you don’t agree.
Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.
August 6, 2016
Photos: Demetrios Katsantonis