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'Footloose' the Musical


Gary Griffin is a genius! Add the choreography of William Carlos Angulo and you have one terrific musical, “Footloose”, based on the film that we all recall made Kevin Bacon a household word! I must say, that when the Broadway touring company came in with their tour, I was not impressed. The script is very close to what it was (written by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, and based on the screenplay by Pitchford), and the music is the same ( Tom Snow on music and lyrics by Pitchford except some pop tunes of the era), BUT the production now on the stage at Marriott Theatre is far above what we saw on a large stage, in a larger theater.

The magic of theater “in-the-round” as directed by Griffin and staged dances by Angulo are so much better and help to move the story along. The story is simple. A young, hip man,Ren McCormak ( Aidan Wharton is perfect) and his mother , Ethel ( the always reliable Heidi Kettenring) leave Chicago in order to start a new life. They go to stay with family in a small rural town. It turns out that the town has a history that involved four teens in a fatal car crash, coming from a dance. Thus, the towns people, under the guidance of their pastor, the Reverend Moore ( deftly handled by Jim Stanek) helped to enact a law that would make Bomont a “dance free” ( in reality a fun free) community.

His daughter, Ariel (an outstanding performance by Lucy Godinez, who many of us have watched mature on Chicago area stages) who has a powerful voice. Her “Holding Out For A Hero” number is a definite SHOW STOPPER, and worth the price of the ticket, but the entire show is in truth a solid theatrical experience. I know that many of the audience members might compare it to the film, BUT, remember, what we are seeing live, on the stage of the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre is a “happening” and it is not a cut and paste as a movie is, it is live and beautiful.

All of the high school kids want to dance and have fun, and Ren leads the revolt to hold a dance. This cast of players is highly energetic and under Griffin’s smooth direction and the solid choreography of Angulo, a full house of all ages had a wonderful experience watching the transformation from film to so-so play to solid smash in Lincolnshire. The music, under the direction of Ryan T. Neslon with an orchestra composed of Patti Garwood (conductor/keyboard), Kevin Reeks ( keyboard), Dominic Trumfio (reeds), Corey Richardson ( guitars and mandolin), Bryan Blowers ( guitars), Trevor Jones ( Bass), Jared Decker (Drums) and Andy Wilmoth ( percussion). They sure sounded like a full orchestra. Great work.

The ensemble is amazing as well. Johanna McKenzie Miller as Vi, Ariel’s mother has the warmth and soul of a woman who loves her family, but knows the future must outweight the past. The lovely Nancy Voigts and James Rank play the townsfolk that Ethel and Ren move in with. Voigts also does a great bit as a country-western singer leading into the smash number, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” , done to perfection by Monica Ramirez as Rusty. WOW! Rusty, along with Urleen (Kiersten Hodgens) and Wendy Jo (Sara Reinecke) make up a sort of “Greek Chorus” helping to tell the story. They are wonderful . Everyone always asks about the comic character, Williard Hewitt, who can’t dance and is always looking for a fight. Ben Barker is another great find. The casting for this show is almost storybook perfect. Each actor is almost hand-picked to lay their role.

Let’s hear it for the rest of the ensemble:Ryan McBride, Wydetta Carter, Shea Coffman, Christpher Wayland Jones, Nick Cosgrove, Samuel Gardner, John Guardian, UJ Mangune, Emily Madigan ( quite the dancer), Madison Piner, Sarah Ohlson, Karl Skylar Urban and Big Red ( the incredible Meghan Murphy as you have never seen her before!). The music is that of the movie and I urge you to see the most choreographed curtain call I have ever seen on a stage in Chicago- I wonder if their is a Jeff Award for curtain calls!