Encore Repertory Company's current production is "Footloose", a musical based on the 1984 movie. This show tells the story of Ren, a fun-loving boy from Chicago, who finds himself having to move to Bomont, Texas, 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 exuberance and zest for life. Breaking every taboo, Ren brings dance to the heart of the town held back by the memory of a tragedy. Although most dance musicals have almost no plot, this one has a serious side to it which helps 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. It has insightful direction by Ashley Dougan, topnotch musical direction by Ryan DeWolfe and terrific choreography by Meaghan Bruneault. This wonderful cast does a marvelous job with this high energy show.
Ashley mixes the comic and poignant moments together beautifully while Ryan plays lead keyboards and conducts his five piece orchestra. Meaghan's dances are spectacular including country western, kick line and many others. This talented cast is led by Paul Lucenti as Ren and Melissa Sheffield as Ariel. Paul displays a great deal of charisma as the boy from Chicago who eventually triumphs over all adversities in bringing life back to this town. He shows off his powerful voice in the title number which opens the show with a fantastic dance segment and his "I Can't Stand Still" where he explains why dancing is important to him. Paul also sings "I'm Free". One of his funniest dance moments is when he is on roller skates at the burger joint. Paul's strongest dramatic moment occurs in his final confrontation with the minister. He is dynamic in this show. Melissa, a gorgeous brunette is another wonderful performer in this show. Her duet of "Almost Paradise" with Paul and her "Holding Out for a Hero" are fantastic. The latter one is sung with a trio of girls and sends chills up your spine. Melissa's belting voice is terrific throughout the show. She displays her soprano range in "Almost Paradise" with Paul. She gives this ingenue a backbone whether she is standing up to her parents or thug boyfriend.
The minister, Shaw Moore, and his wife, Vi are played by Michael Myers and Rachel Reef Simpson. These two performers bring out the poignancy in the show and move you to tears during their numbers. Mike displays his powerful voice in this pivotal role in "On Any Sunday" and "Heaven Help Me". The minister is so strict and stern during the first act, it makes you wonder why the character is behaving this way. The answer is revealed in the tear jerking second act song "Can You Find It in Your Heart?". The death of a child is one of the most devastating moments a parent faces in real life. The audience can readily identify with Shaw's pain at his son's death in a car accident years ago. Mike shows Shaw's realization of having to let the past go, bringing his family close together again by living life to its fullest. Rachel's voice soars in her songs, "Learning to Be Silent" about how Vi must behave as a minister's wife and "Can You Find It in Your Heart?" a poignant number where she wants to be loved as she was years ago. Her acting as the sympathetic character is topnotch as is her vocal talent. Ren's long suffering mother Ethel is beautifully played by Cheryl Dunphy. She makes a strong impression in her scenes with her comic line delivery as this underused character but gets to show off her voice in "Learning to be Silent"
The hilarious side of this show is handled by the antics of Alura Plante as Rusty and Gian DiCostanzo as Willard. Gian is one of the biggest scene stealers in the show. He is a hoot as the country bumpkin who can barely string a sentence together around the girls and is embarrassed because he never learned how to dance. But when he does learn how to dance, watch out because he does a topnotch dance. Gian is marvelous in "Mama Says", a vaudeville type number that explains Willard's mother is as dumb as he is by saying never bring a toaster into the shower. He is going to be a freshman at Emerson College. Alura is a pretty and feisty brunette, who sings and dances excellently. She teaches Willard how to dance in "Let's Hear It for the Boy" which she belts out marvelously. Alura also sings the warning song to Ren called "Somebody's Eyes". She is a wonderful comedienne and handles her many funny lines with ease. Her two sidekicks, Urleen and Wendy Jo are played for many laughs by Alex Duprey and Megan Choate. The other villain is the bad boy, Chuck Cranston played very convincingly by Adam Landry. His thug like character gives Ren and Ariel, black eyes. Adam displays his topnotch jazz voice in "This Girl Gets Around"which he does with his sidekicks Lyle and Travis played by Tyler Begnoche and Justin Vieira. Adam is going to be a freshman at Rhode Island College. I have been reviewing him in shows since he was 10 years old. Ashley's fiancee Brian Lopes plays Cowboy Bob and shows off his strong voice in "Still Rockin".So for a fun filled musical with a heart, be sure to catch "Footloose" in Woonsocket before the show dances its way out of town.