Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Footloose"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Assumption College's spring production is "Footloose", a musical based on the 1984 movie. This show tells the story of a fun-loving boy from Chicago, who finds himself having to move to Bomont, Oklahoma, a small, conservative town, with his mother. Dancing and rock'n roll are banned in this town until this teenager opens their eyes with his zest for life. Although most dance musicals have almost no plot, this one has a serious side to it which helps to give it a perfect blend of upbeat numbers and meaningful ballads. "Footloose" is a show with a lot of heart, boasting many memorable Oscar nominated songs in its score and with insightful direction, musical direction and choreography, this talented, exuberant 40 member cast sells this show to an appreciative audience.

Director Brian Tivnan does double duty in this show playing the pivotal role of Reverand Shaw Moore who convinced the town to ban dancing after his son's death in a car crash years ago. Brian shows this man's devastation of losing his son during his "I Confess" song. He shows the realization of having to let go of the past to bring his family close together again by living life to its fullest. Brian's voice is wonderful in this role and his acting is outstanding. He also works his magic with this script as director by infusing it with the needed depth to give the characters more than one dimension. His assistant director, Jake Hutchings, a junior from Lakeville, CT keeps everyone on their toes backstage and onstage since Brian is a member of the cast. Kallin Johnson not only conducts his five piece ensemble but also plays the keyboards. He gets a great sound from his musicians and from the cast,too whether in the group numbers or the emotionally charged ballads. Choreographer Jennifer Agbay works wonders with this enormous cast in all the group numbers including the title number which opens and closes the show, the rap number where the guys try to convince the town council to overturn their ban on dancing, "Let's Hear It for the Boy" where Ren teaches Willard how to dance and the Spiderman fighting the Green Goblin dance for "Holding Out for a Hero". This girl know how to move these talented kids including some basketball players. ( James Lambert III and Elijah Bland) The energy of all the dance numbers is contagious, making the audience want to dance along with the cast.The 1980's tuxedos and prom gowns by Tara Ouellette of Fantasty World Costumes give the right finishing touch to this show.

This talented cast is led by Mike Kazlaukas and Mallory Reardon as Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore. Mike opens the show with a rousing rendition of "Footloose". His dancing is astounding as he moves around the stage like a whirling dervish not only in this song but all of his numbers. Mike explains why dancing is important to Ren in his "I Can't Still" song and convinces his classmates to bring life back to Bomont in "Heaven Help the Man" song which closes the first act with an excellent group dance number. Mike shows off his strongest acting moment in his final confrontation scene with the minister while the funniest moments include rollerskating on the stage and bumping into an extremely tall Willard who towered over him.(In real life Mike is studying to be a funeral director at Mt. Ida College.) Mallory, a gorgeous blond freshman from East Lyme, CT, gives this ingenue a backbone whether she is standing up to her parents or her thug boyfriend. She displays a fantastic singing voice especially when she belts out "Holding Out for a Hero" and her duet with Mike, "Almost Paradise". Mallory also shows off her wonderful dancing talents in this show. Mike and Mallory make you want to cheer when this couple finally gets together after all their trials and tribulations.

The two sympathetic mothers in the show, Vi Moore and Ethel McCormack are played by Judy White and Linda Johnson. Judy's voice soars in her two numbers, the first is a duet with Linda called, "Learning to Be Silent" shows how they are expected to behave by their families. The second is "Can't You Find It in Your Heart?" a tear jerker song where whe wants to be loved like she was years ago. Linda's acting as the long suffering mother of this teenage boy is excellent. She makes a strong impression in this underused character in the show and shines while doing so. Some students playing adult roles include Mark Sawyer as the feisty, always yelling coach,Stephanie Goan as his wife who is head of the town council, RJ Coleman as Ren's heavyhanded uncle who changes his mind about dancing, Melissa Studdard as his wife (she did an excellent job last year as Sarah Brown in "Guys & Dolls) and Sarah Gower as the strict by the rules principal.

The biggest scene stealer in this show is John Plough who plays country bumpkin, Willard Hewitt who is always itching for a fight. His southern drawl and expert comic delivery of his lines are fantastic. The character can barely string a sentence together around girls and is also embarassed because he never learned how to dance. But when John does dance, he does a super job, too. His comic song is called, "Mama Says" which is about the dumb things his mother has told him including never bring a toaster into your bathtub. He is a hoot. Rusty, his girlfriend is played by the tiny, Kerrianne Rondeau but who has a huge and powerful voice which she uses in her sole number, "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and in the trio number called "Somebody's Eyes" where she warns Ren to be careful because someone in town is always watching him. Her two sidekicks Urleen and Wendy Jo are played very well by Rachel Maclean and Carolyn Yeshulas who get many laughs with their antics. The show's bad boy, Chuck Cranston is played by Mark Pandolfe who plays this thuglike character very convincingly. He shows off his dancing and singing with the boys in "This Girl Gets Around". A word of praise for this entire hard working cast who makes this a show to be proud of.

So for a riproaring return to 1984, be sure to catch "Footloose" at my old alma mater, Assumption College. You won't be disappointed. Tell them Tony Annicone from the class of 1976 sent you.

"Footloose" (22 - 25 April)
Assumption College, Laska Gym, 500 Salisbury Street,WORCESTER,MA
1 (508) 767-7410

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide