For a very short span of time, Elkhart Civic Theatre is going “Footloose.” The 2000 theatrical version of the hit 1984 film is the ECT summer production which opened Friday, played Saturday and will make its final appearance at 3 p.m. today in the Elkhart Memorial High School auditorium. It is a show the whole family can enjoy. Even if the movie which made a star of KevinBacon is not on your Top 10 list, it pays to take a look at what an enthusiastic group of “amateurs” can do with a hot score and a plot that admittedly is not Pulitzer material.
The group of 70 — cast and crews — follows the beat of Brian Mast’s excellent orchestra and, during the up-tempo numbers, I defy you to keep your toes from tapping. You’ll be surprised how many of the songs will strike a familiar chord in your memory. Tyler Miller has the leading role of Ren McCormick, a Chicago teen forced to move with his mother to the tiny town of Bomont after his father runs off “to find himself.” Living with a by-the-book aunt and uncle soon finds him chaffing under the constraints of rural life, especially when there is a strict town law prohibiting dancing and playing rock music. It doesn’t help matters when he is attracted to Ariel Moore (Kristin Riggs), rebellious daughter of the town minister, Shaw Moore (Michael Cripe), primary supporter of the law, and his wife Vi (Susan Ponce). The reasons behind the law come to light but Ren, who “Can’t Stand Still,” leads his fellow students in lobbying for a school dance. If there is any doubt as to which side will prevail, you haven’t seen many musicals. In the hands of director John Shoup, vocal director Douglas J. Lunn PhD., orchestra director Brian Mast, and choreographers Tom Myers, Heather Holland and Dawn Manger (there are a lot of big dance numbers), this production is a showcase for some extremely talented performers. Ariel and her three BFFs, Rusty (Alex Pote), Urleen (Megan Wade) and Wendy Jo (Lauren Parsons), hit a universal teen nerve with “Somebody’s Eyes.” The girls take the lead on two other song and dance numbers: “Holding Out for A Hero” and “Let’s Hear It for the Boys.” Riggs, Ponce and Julie Musser as Ren’s mom Ethel blend beautifully in the ballad “Learning to Be Silent,” which has to hit home with many of the female listeners and is one of the loveliest songs not in the film version. Miller and Riggs do justice to the show’s best known ballad, “Almost Paradise.”
Jay Mast offers a fine comic turn as Ren’s best friend, Willard Hewitt. His detailed report on what “Mama Says,” with backing from the Bomont boys (Tell Williams, Raul Soto and Paxton Manly), listing maternal directives, is a highlight of the second act. Peter Sessions takes a break from “good guy” roles to play Chuck Cranston, Ariel’s definitely thuggish boy friend, chosen in defiance of her father. As the minister whose grief and anger have set him apart from his wife and daughter, Cripe delivers a solid characterization and his plea for guidance, “Heaven Help Me” is beautifully sung. The show opens and closes with a high-energy performance of the title song which just may have you dancing all the way home.
“Footloose” plays at 3 p.m. today (Sunday) in the Memorial High School auditorium. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students and senior citizens and #10 for youngsters to age 13. At the door.