The new production of â€œFootlooseâ€ at Glendale Centre Theatre very much reflects its protagonist in style and mood â€” energetic and a bit rough around the edges, but ultimately likable when you get to experience the complete package.
As with any stage play based on a film â€” in this case the well-known 1984 movie that featured Kevin Bacon in one of his first starring roles â€” the comparisons are inevitable. Many songs that were background themes in the movie are retained and used to advance the plot, while others are newly written for the stage play. I don't know if it is familiarity or prejudice, but I favor the original songs over the new ones.
The plot has not changed. Ren McCormack (Harley Jay) is a Chicago teen who is preparing to move with his mother, Ethel (Alison Robertson), to a small town called Bomont after his father leaves the family.
Life there revolves around the church, presided over by the strict reverend, Shaw Moore (George Champion), whose sensible but frustrated wife, Vi (Noel Britton), plays peacemaker between her husband and their defiant daughter, Ariel (Jayme Lake).
At school, Ren befriends Willard (Joey Elrose) and quickly learns the prevailing mood over Bomont is repression. Ariel's friend Rusty (Janet Krupin) is smitten with Willard and explains to a disbelieving Ren that dancing is forbidden ever since four teens were killed in a car accident years before. After a series of mishaps that brand Ren as a troublemaker, he sets out to improve his reputation and convince the townfolk to change the law and allow dancing.
â€œFootlooseâ€ is a play that relies on the strength of its main character to carry it, and Jay makes Ren totally believable. He's angry about his absent father, frustrated at his forced living situation in a town that smothers him and overwhelmed by his affection for Ariel. His singing and dancing are excellent, and his rendition of â€œI Can't Stand Stillâ€ sums up the multi-dimensions of his character.
As the â€œwillful and obstinateâ€ Ariel, Lake is well cast and shows the rebellious side of a girl who buries the affection she has for her father.
Champion's stern minister is also a complex role, and his singing â€œHeaven Help Meâ€ expresses the dilemma of a father wrestling with the challenge of watching his daughter grow up.
The other notable vocal highlight is Krupin singing â€œLet's Hear it for the Boy.â€ Tackling a well-known pop music standard involves risk, but she belts it out with passion and charm, even though the staging of the number was difficult to follow with several focal points occurring simultaneously.
The crux of this show certainly centers on the dancing, and while Simone Burch's choreography was exuberant and sincere, there were a few spots where it should have been a notch higher. Most of the supporting cast definitely showed spirit, but a few held it back from being a complete success. Musically, the continued use of the haunting â€œSomebody's Eyesâ€ really underscored the suspicions that permeate a small community.
Minor problems aside, it's worth an evening out for some good old toe-tapping fun.
WHAT: â€œFootloose,â€ stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday until Aug. 29
WHERE: Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale, 91203
TICKETS: $23 to $26, with discounts available for groups and seniors
INFORMATION: (818) 244-8481 or www.glendalecentretheatre.com
?PHILLIP HAIN is a Glendale resident who enjoys theater and has limited dancing ability.