Footloose is a classic tale of teenage rebellion in small town America during the 1980s when dancing had been banned from the town limits, until quirky new kid—Ren McCormack played by Gonzalo Arboleda—comes to get the town of Beaumont back on their feet.
The show’s cast is composed entirely of high school students as part of the High School Project 2011 at The Grand Theatre. With upbeat song and dance numbers and emotional ballads, the performance is fun, yet at times slow and outdated.
Arboleda of Catholic Central High School burst onto the stage with punch and promise, yet as the dance numbers become more difficult and the solos get longer, it’s clear that his experience is not that of some of his counterparts.
The next scene, which features Reverend Shaw, his daughter Ariel and mother Vi, stands out above the rest due to the performers’ vocals. All three have phenomenal stage presence, acting ability and vocal chords that give shivers.
Reverend Shaw, played by Daniel Newton, had the most mature and skilled abilities of all the male cast members. Rebecca McCauley, who played Vi, gleams in both of her numbers and most memorably in her solo “Can you find it in your heart?” in the second act. Chanel Danbrook’s adaptation of the rebellious and flirtatious Ariel shows her spunk and talent and makes her a triple threat.
Along with the stand-out leads, the ensemble of dancers is talented, yet underused throughout the performance. Showing of their acrobatics and spot-on techniques at the beginning, the dance numbers seem to fade off until final number. As the play slows down in tempo and becomes more serious, the themes of religion and death begin to show, and the story doesn’t suit the enthusiastic and youthful cast members.
The props, however, are the opposite of outdated. The stage, backdrop and props are eye catching and extremely well-made with authentic looking church walls, lockers and gas pumps. Like the props, the costume design and styling represents the 1980s. Each costume suits each character and brings out the liveliness and personality of each actor.
Seeing as this was the first performance for the High School Project 2011, it’s a learning experience for the actors and directors alike. With such a historic stage to fill at The Grand Theatre, with some fine-tuning their adaptation of Footloose is looking promising over the next week.
Footloose plays at The Grand Theatre until October 1 from 7:30 p.m. Tickets are between $25.99 – $46.33 and are available at The Grand Theatre Box Office at 471 Richmond St. or online at grandtheatre.com.