Thursday, August 2, 2012
Theater review: Footloose at Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne
The youthful enthusiasm and high-energy dancing and music were both refreshing and entertaining.
Footloose (playing at Plaza Theatre Company through August 4) is one of those musicals that leaves you humming songs from it for days. Plaza Theatre Company’s production not only left me humming, its energy added a bounce to my step as I left the theater. Footloose is a modern musical that opened on Broadway in 1998, 14 years after the movie of the same name premiered. Its Broadway run enjoyed 709 performances.
Walking into the theater, the set, designed by JaceSon Barrus, was strikingly simple. The many scene changes revealed the complexity of the design – pew benches and a podium for the church scenes, a desk and kitchen table for scenes in the Reverend’s home, an old gas pump for outdoor scenes, and a rope hanging from the ceiling for the gymnasium scenes. Each set change was cleverly camouflaged by spotlighted dancers, distracting the audience from the movement happening on stage. This feature of the show assisted in keeping the energy up, even during what would normally be a blackout.
I appreciated that the costumes were kept simple; since the show could be set in today’s time, there wasn’t a need for mismatched period costumes. Still, attention to detail by Costume Designer Tina Barrus was evident as each character had costumes that revealed as much personality as the performances did.
Lighting by G. Aaron Siler and Cameron Barrus was sometimes a little dark. In early scenes, characters seemed eerie because of the shadows being cast on their faces. Overall though, the lighting also added excitement to the show especially during the major dance scenes.
The musical accompaniment was not live, but a recorded track. This track was played at a level high enough that it became somewhat distracting as it kept me from fully hearing the words being sung and was sometimes just plain loud.
From the opening number, the youthful energy of the cast filled the theater. There seemed to be an unending source of this energy as their pace never faltered. The dancing ensemble was comprised of summer theater camp participants. Their performance was tribute to the quality of the program – each move was very polished and full of energy. Young Choreographer Tabitha Barrus did an outstanding job of creating dance numbers that fit a large dance crew in a small space.
As I watched this young cast, I was reassured that the future of theater is in good hands. The cast had only a few adult members, with the rest being teenagers as the script demands. Jace Bachman, who played Ren McCormick, started at full speed and never seemed to slow down. His dancing and singing performances were impressive. Whether singing, dancing or simply talking, Jace’s performance was spot on.
Ariel Moore, the daughter of the town preacher, was played by Tabitha Barrus, who has won more than one COLUMN award including the prestigious Ben Brettel Youth Award in 2011. Her performance as a somewhat rebellious preacher’s kid was flexible and revealed a range of ability in this young actress.
The most notable adult cast member was Jay Lewis who portrayed small-town minister, Rev. Shaw Moore. His performance expertly ranged from authoritarian to somber. Lewis, although not the most polished singer, brought tears to my eyes with his solo “I Confess” during an especially emotional scene in Act Two.
Of the other youth performers, two had standout performances. Parker Barrus, in the role of Willard Hewitt, was always a delight on stage. He consistently and appropriately played the high school hick. His performance was never goofy, but always entertaining.
Rusty, played by Sydney Abbott, was also fun to watch. Rusty had a big crush on Willard, and any time the two of them were on stage, their interactions were entertaining and brought back memories of my own awkward high school days.
Plaza Theatre Company’s production of Footloose is definitely worth watching. The youthful enthusiasm and high-energy dancing and music were both refreshing and entertaining. Although this is a show full of youth, whether you are young or old or in between, you’ll want to get tickets for the show which closes this weekend.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
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