Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Footlooswe"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The latest production at Dean College 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 expert direction, musical direction and choreography, this talented, exuberant cast sells this show with their powerful performances.

Director Jim Beauregard works his magic with this script, infusing it with the needed depth to give the characters more than one dimension. This can be seen especially in the minister's role where the reason for his behavior and his bitterness towards dancing is finally revealed to the audience. Rob Goldman not only conducts his six piece orchestra but plays the keyboard, too. He always gets the best out of them as well as his vocalists whether it is in the rock numbers or the emotionally charged ballads. (Mike Sartini, an excellent percussionist, is part of Rob's orchestra and also played at Theater by the Sea for many years.) Choreographer Lisa Pari does a dynamite job with this 33 member cast in all the group numbers especially the title song and "Let's Hear It For The Boy". The energy of all the dance numbers is contagious, making the audience want to dance along with the cast. Jim, Rob, Lisa and their hard working assistants do a great job in making this a show to be proud of.

This talented cast is led by Anthony Watkin and Mariah Perry as Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore. Anthony portrays this Chicago boy stuck in this small town who aches to bring it back to life. He leads the opening title number which consists of stunning dance moves from almost the whole cast and explains why dancing is important to him in his "I Can't Stand Still" song. Anthony excells in all his dance numbers with his strongest acting moment, being his final confrontation scene with the minister. Mariah, a beautiful blond, is wonderful in this show. She gives this ingenue a backbone whether she is standing up to her parents or to a thug boyfriend. Her duet with Anthony of "Almost Paradise" and her "Holding Out for a Hero" are fantastic. The latter is sung with a trio of girls with an excellent sound while four girls and one guy do an energetic dance in the background. Anthony and Mariah make you want to cheer when this young couple finally gets together.

The minister, Shaw Moore and his wife, Vi are played by Byron Gwinn and Christine Brito. These two performers bring out the poignant moments in the show with both of them moving you to tears during their numbers. Byron is fantastic as this hard hearted man who shows his devastation at his son's death years ago in a car crash during "I Confess". He shows the realization of having to let go of the past to bring his family close together by living life to its fullest. Byron's voice is beautiful and his acting in this role is outstanding. Christine's acting is wonderful, too as she plays the sympathetic mother and her ballads are magical. The first, "Learning To Be Silent" shows how Vi is expected to behave as a minister's wife and the second is "Can't You Find It In Your Heart?", a tear jerker song where she wants to be loved like she was years ago. Great job by these two performers.

The hilarious side of the evening are the antics of Mike Diefenbach as Willard and Kristen Kesner as Rusty. Mike is a hoot as the country bumpkin who can barely string a sentence together and is embarassed because he never learned how to dance but when he does he is superb. His comic song is called, "Mama Says" which is about the dumb things his mother has told him. His backups, Clifford Lee, Tyrone Gomes, Loriannne Major and Rocco Furano do terrific harmonies and dance routine in this song. Kristen is a feisty actress who delivers her one liners with ease. She sings "Let's Hear It for the Boy" as Willard is being taught how to dance as well as the warning song, "Somebody's Eyes" to Ren about always being watched. Her two sidekicks, Urleen and Wendy Jo are played well by Sara Rivera and Liz Harmon who get many laughs with their antics. The show's bad boy, Chuck Cranston is played by Lucas Bourgeois, a tall lanky blond who plays this thuglike character very convincingly. Chuck gives black eyes to both Ren and Ariel. His dancing is excellent and he gets to show off his voice in "This Girl Gets Around". The other cast members do a great job in their roles, too, but due to space limitation, it's impossible to mention everyone separately. So for an entertaining evening of a dynamic dancing show, be sure to catch "Footloose" at Dean College, you won't be disappointed.

"Footloose" ( 23 October to 2 November)
99 Main Street, Franklin, Massachusetts
1 (508) 541-1606

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide