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Exuberant ‘Footloose’ soars at Marriott

“Footloose” is back for another welcoming go-around on the Marriott Theatre stage, where it last played in September 2005.

The popular 1998 musical, based on a 1984 film, draws from a true story of a small, conservative Midwestern town that in the wake of a tragedy banned dancing and suggestive rock ‘n’ roll music.

Gary Griffin adeptly directs a solid 22-member cast led by Aidan Wharton, Lucy Godinez and Jim Stanek. “Footloose” features music direction by Ryan T. Nelson and choreography by William Carlos Angulo.

There’s good work by Ben Barker as mama’s boy Willard Hewitt; Johanna McKenzie as Vi Moore; Ryan McBride as Chuck Cranston, and Monica Ramirez as Rusty, among others.

The opening-night audience responded well to the show’s catchy score, which includes such numbers as “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” “Almost Paradise,” “Holding Out for a Hero” and the title song.

The story follows the arrival in a sleepy hamlet known as Bomont of displaced Chicagoans Ren (Wharton), a rebellious high school student, and Ethel (Heidi Kettenring), his sympathetic mother. Their presence threatens to upset the status quo: a stifling lifestyle imposed by the town’s influential preacher, the Rev. Shaw Moore (Stanek), who can’t condone dancing.

Ren’s romantic involvement with Ariel, the preacher’s daughter, further complicates matters.

The teen quickly finds himself at loggerheads with Rev. Moore.

Ren’s indictment that “now is our time to celebrate life” fell on receptive ears of his peers. But he initially ran into a brick wall with the community’s town council.

The superlative production benefits from a simple but effective set by Scott Davis, impressive lighting by Jesse Klug, smart costumes by Anna Wooden and effective sound design by Bob Gilmartin.