Glendale Centre Theatre once again proves itself best-in-town in musicals-in-the-round with Footloose The Broadway Musical and Chaz Feuerstine’s triple-threat star turn in the role that helped make Kevin Bacon a household name.

Like Bacon in Footloose’s 1984 screen debut, Feuerstine puts on his dancing shoes as Chicago-transplant Ren McCormack, freshly arrived at podunk Bomont High and fighting for his fellow students’ right to “cut footloose” in a town where busting a move is not just frowned upon, it’s downright illegal.

Both the movie and its 1998 Broadway adaptation follow teenage Ren and his mother Ethel (Christa Hamilton) from America’s third-largest city to the sticks of Bomont in search of refuge following the goodbye-and-good-riddance departure of Ren’s good-for-nothing dad.

It’s hard enough for a Chicago boy to adjust to life in the boonies, but when Ren learns that dancing is against the law inside city limits, it’s the last straw, and the Chi-town teen determines to do something about it.

First, however, he must win over the high school population by turning himself into the boy all the other boys want to be and the one all the girls want to be bad with, particularly Ariel (Jana Souza), the rebellious daughter of a town preacher (George Champion as Shaw Moore) compelled by a family tragedy to keep Bomont dance-free.

Abetted by his new best friend, the sweet but not-too-bright Willard (John McGavin), and by Ariel’s best girlfriends Rusty (Evy Moody), Urleen (Tracey Thomas), and Wendy Jo (Linda Neel), Ren vows to bring dancing back to Bomont, if it’s the last thing he does.

Footloose The Broadway Musical not only treats its audience to movie’s many Top 40 hits, it throws in a bunch of new Tom Snow/Dean Pitchford creations for good measure.

Book writers Pitchford and Walter Bobbie find clever ways to turn background tracks into plot-propellers. (Ariel declares her intention to be “Holding Out For A Hero.” Rusty sings the praises of just-learned-to-dance Willard in “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.”)

Choreographer Leigh Wakeford turns hit after Footloose hit into one toe-tapping, foot-stomping production number after another, featuring the multi-talented (and indefatigable) Griffin Barr (Jeter), Edgar Cardoso (Garvin), Bre Harris (Jenaye), Jacob Krech (Bickle), dance captain Katy Marcella (Beth), Bretten M. Popiel (Bender), Bridget Pugliese (Tiffani), Jacob Reynolds (Travis), Mathew San Jose (Lyle), Libby Snyder (Staci), and Lindsay Styler (Ruby), with special snaps for a country-western bar sequence that has them all “doing the Willard” while vocalizing under Steven Applegate and Martin Lang’s expert musical direction.

As director, Lang once again reveals his expertise at eliciting topnotch performances while guaranteeing not a bad seat in the in-the-round house, and with performers filling the aisles almost as often as they’re center stage, audiences may find themselves believing they too are smack dab in the middle of Bomont.

In his biggest and best L.A.-area role to date, an electrifying Feuerstine proves himself the quintessential triple-threat charmer as sexy-boy-next-door Ren, igniting plenty of romantic sparks opposite Souza’s red-headed sizzler of an Ariel, their “Almost Paradise” duet reaching the rafters and beyond.

McGavin’s deliciously dim Willard is the “good ol’ boy” goofball any Bomont newbie would be lucky to have as his surprisingly wise (“Mama Says”) new best friend and that any petite blonde ball of fire (big-voiced cutie Moody’s Rusty) would be overjoyed to serenade with “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.”

Thomas and Neel’s Urlene and Wendy Jo are pretty darned terrific too as is Gibson’s big-biceped mean blond Chuck, earning his own song-and-dance applause for “The Girl Gets Around.”

As Shaw, Champion reveals a father’s beating heart beneath a preacher’s judgmental façade, sings a gorgeous “Heaven Help Me,” and earns dramatic points and a tear or two along the way.

Reynolds follows Bye Bye Birdie’s all-American homemaker with another splendidly rendered salt-of-the-earth wife-and-mother, soloing a powerful “Can You Find It In Your Heart” and dueting “Learning To Be Silent” with Hamilton’s sassy Vi.

Adult roles benefit from the talents of David Gallic (Wes Warnicker, Cowboy Bob), Kelly Lynn George (Eleanor Dunbar), a particularly delicious Meghan Jones (Jane The Cop, Betty Blast), Kyle Kelley (Coach Roger Dunbar), Calista Ruiz (Lulu Warnicker), and Robert Schaumann (Principal Harry Clark), with Gallic’s Cowboy Bob giving Nashville a run for its money with “Still Rockin’.”

Footloose proves one of GCT’s best-looking musicals thanks to Jeremy Williams’ radiant lighting, costume Angela Manke’s fabulous teens-to-adults wear, and an uncredited scenic design that takes us seamlessly from church to country-western bar to gas station to junk yard to living room thanks to some razor-sharp choreographed scene changes. Sound designer Alex Mackyol and sound technician Nathan Milisavljevich earn top design marks as well.

Footloose The Broadway Musical is produced by Tim Dietlein. Paul Reid is stage manager and Patrick Gallagher is backstage manager. Ruiz is production assistant. JC Wendel is scenic artist and Milisavljevich is set carpenter.

With its catchy songs, infectious dance numbers, and an awesome young cast to perform them, Glendale Centre Theatre’s Footloose The Broadway Musical proves the quintessential crowd pleaser for audiences from eight to eighty.

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Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale.

–Steven Stanley
August 26, 2017
Photos: Rock With You Photography

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