Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Theater review: Footloose the musical has audiences dancing at Grand Prairie’s Uptown Theater
Everybody cut footloose!
GRAND PRAIRIE “Loose, footloose. Kick off your Sunday shoes.” Most people have heard the lyrics to this classic song and loved it, as is shown by how many years that it has lasted. As a dancer, the story appeals to me as I would go crazy if I couldn’t let off some steam through dance.
The strong beat of this top quality performance had me at the edge of my seat tapping my feet through the songs.
Footloose the musical is based on the movie Footloose, released in 1984. The musical opened on Broadway in 1998 in the Richard Rodgers Theater and ran for 709 performances until July 2000, to mixed reviews.
The play relates the story of high school student Ren McCormack and his transition from the bustling life in Chicago to the small town of Bomont, Georgia. He soon meets the town preacher who has encouraged a ban on dancing and music within town limits. This ban creates havoc as Ren and the town youth rebel and fight for the right to kick off their shoes and move to the music.
The first thing that stood out when the music began and the dancers started the opening number was the detailed and creative choreography designed by Kara Bowman and Miranda Kilbride. I was amazed how in sync the dancers were, their performances were spot on and very pleasant to watch.
Evan Beggs demonstrated obvious skill in his dancing and rightfully stole the spotlight whenever he danced. Many other members of the cast were right there with him, infecting the audience with the vivacity of their dancing. The variety in the different dance numbers ensured that there was never a dull moment on stage. At several times during the show there were dancers in the audience, further helping to pull the audience into the story.
The lighting, designed by Jordan Fetter, was amazingly well-planned and contributed to the overall image of the show. I enjoyed the lighting contrast between different scenes and how it assisted in telling the story. The lighting was used to augment the mood of the show; at different times heightening a scene or subduing it at its conclusion.
Kevin Williams designed the sound. Overall it was good though there were several major issues with the microphones. There were also times when it was impossible to hear Ren and his mother singing a contrasting melody with the ensemble. While this occasionally detracted from the show, when the microphones were working correctly the sound was amazingly clear and made the show enjoyable to hear.
Costumes were designed by Eric Criner and were true to the time period. He creatively used them to portray the different aspects of the characters’ personalities, making their performances even more believable and realistic. The rebels were easy to spot by their short skirts or leather jackets. I especially appreciated seeing the little details Criner worked in to the costuming, such as an abundance of electric blue eye shadow on the ladies and the cowboy who always wore his belt with over-sized buckle, even in gym class.
Set design, by Matt Betz, was easily defined the different areas of the play. There was never a time that I was lost as to where the action was taking place through his creation of a very positive framework for the actors to work in. The set was divided into three parts, with some action taking place in the aisles of the theater. The stage was set up with a bridge on the right side, and two stories in the center. These were very creatively used to differentiate the locations throughout the play. I could easily visualize them being in a high school hallway, in a church and at the train depot.
Director Eric Criner staged transitions that were fluid and very well planned. There was never a down moment throughout the performance. Actors would use all parts of the stage and also the aisles of the theater to continue the performance. This kept things moving very fluidly and showed that a lot of effort had gone into the planning for the show. This paid off and made it very pleasant to watch, keeping the audience fully engaged in the production.
Eric Criner also coordinated blocking so that the actors were always visible, creating realistic movement onstage and the actors deeply involved in the performance. His staging assisted the actors to stay in character which added so much more to the performance as a whole. The direction was successful in pulling me deep into the play and holding me there throughout the whole performance.
Ren McCormack, played by Evan Beggs, was extraordinary to watch. His smooth dance style and clear, strong voice made for an impressive performance, while his acting skills kept the show moving at a high speed, keeping the audience engaged in the show. I was particularly impressed with his performance during “I Can’t Stand Still.” Beggs constantly wowed me with his strong voice and incredibly dancing.
Anna-Marie Boyd played the part of Ariel Moore successfully, showing a young woman that wants to break free of the limitations placed on her by her father. Her talent was very prominent during the song “Holding Out for a Hero.” Boyd had strong onstage presence; her voice was clear and her characterization moving, creating a fully believable character in Ariel.
Mark Winter created an equally believable character in his portrayal of Reverend Shaw Moore. Winter’s acting was amazingly detailed, showing clear choices in his performance. I was impressed with his interactions with the other characters onstage, especially with Ariel. Their interactions created a full, believable father-daughter relationship.
Josephine Donnally showed an empathetic mother in her portrayal of Ethel McCormack. Her skills were very notable during the trio “Learning to Be Silent” with Kathy Lemons and Anna-Marie Boyd. I could see a strong relationship with her son Ren throughout the entire musical, which made for a strong, convincing performance.
Kathy Lemons played the part of Vi Moore, the Reverend’s wife. Her character was pleasant to watch, especially when she interacted with the Reverend and her daughter Ariel. The emotion she portrayed during the song “Can You Find it in Your Heart” was heartfelt and showed an actress that had a deep understanding of her character. Lemons effectively portrayed a woman caught in a conflict between her husband and their daughter.
Erin Hardy shared her extraordinary talent in the portrayal of the character Rusty. I was amazed at her skills and the ease with which she performed in the show. Starting with the opening number, Hardy let her talent shine. She threw herself into the dancing whole-heartedly and showed great talent. Hardy’s talent extended beyond her dancing and into her singing. I especially appreciated her voice during “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” when she was able to use her talent to its full extent.
The ensemble helped bring the whole world of the play to life, all of them remaining true to the characters that they portrayed in the play.
It was a unified cast and very strong ensemble showcasing definite talent as they sang, danced and acted. They were a joy to watch.
Footloose the musical has a strong, talented cast that gives top quality entertainment. I highly recommend that “Everybody cut, Everybody cut. Everybody cut footloose!” and go see this production. They will amaze you with their skills and the heartfelt message they portray in this enjoyable rendition.
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