Footloose, as produced by Artisan Center Theater, is the story of one family and one town’s journey to overcome loss and grief. The story centers on a recently divorced Ethel and her spirited teenage son, Ren, as they move to a small town from the big city of Chicago to escape the emotional demons of their past. However, the small town of Bomont has its own emotional demons to exorcise.
A few years back, a car accident resulted in the death of four teenagers. It was alleged that the teens had been involved in alcohol and drug use. After the accident, the town, led by Reverend Shaw, whose son was one of the boys killed in the accident, sought to ban all “negative”
Upon Ren’s arrival to the town he is considered a “negative”
It quickly becomes apparent that Ren’s outgoing personality is seen as a destructive force that Reverend Shaw must deal with before his quiet town erupts into chaos.
The battle of wills between Ren’s youthful push for freedom of expression and Reverend Shaw’s tyrannically imposed iron grip of controlled safety is the battleground of our musical.
Artisan Center Theater’
I especially enjoyed Scene 4 in which four girls on skates sang “Somebody’s Eyes”.
The fluidity of the scene was impressive. The girls skated in a large circle, singing. After a few lines of song they skated off in one of the four directions while the lights came up in an opposite corner where the other cast members acted out a high school scene. It was a moving montage of complex choreography and it worked well. The only down side to the scene was that Macy Rand, who played Rusty, appeared severely unsure of herself on the skates and at one point fell. Rand’s skating was very unsteady and it impacted the fluidity of the scene as a whole.
Set design and choreography was impressive in the diner during Scene 6: The Burger Blast. During the song “Holding out for a Hero”, the booth in which the four girls sat was rotated and spun by ensemble cast members as they danced. At one point Ren, played by Kevin Acosta, swung out from the side of the stage on a rope while Ariel, played by Meredith Stowe, stood atop the rotating diner table and sang “Holding Out for a Hero”. An offstage smoke machine billowed smoke as Ren swung into the diner in a true swashbuckling heroic manner. The moment was exciting. The audience cheered. Well done Canright.
Finally, my favorite piece of set design was in Act II Scene 4: Under the Train Bridge. During the musical, the bridge was split into two pieces on either side of the west side of the audience. From the beginning, it was impressive as just a part of the barn or church but when it “transformed&q
Ren and Ariel stood atop the bridge singing “Almost Paradise” as the smoke from the river covered the ground. I got goose bumps. The two young lovers, in this scene where they shared their pain, was beautiful.
The cast did a phenomenal job and maintained the high energy required throughout the musical. A wonderful performance overall was by Mark Winter as Reverend Shaw. Winter was the total package. He could sing, act and, in each scene, be heard.
There were a few points in the musical in which other actors’ voices were lost in the crowd but Winter was clear and concise in every scene. His rendition of “Heaven Help Me” in Act I, as he sang out for help from God was, heartfelt and inspired. Winter was an excellent Reverend Shaw and a real pleasure to watch.
Kevin Acosta did an excellent job as Ren. His acting and singing abilities were outstanding. Acosta’s dancing in Act I Scene 4: A High School Hallway was very well performed and his rendition of “I Can’t Stand Still” was great.
Meredith Stowe did a superb job in her performance as Ariel. Stowe was believable and likable as a preacher kid with a desire to escape the confines of small town living. The majority of Stowe’s songs was understated and could have been sung with greater intensity.
However, as stated previously, she had a couple of stand-out performances. Her voice never seemed to waiver and the words were clear. Stowe could have been stronger in the duet with Acosta but overall it was touching and impressive.
Another wonderful performance was by Tamera Miller as Vi. Vi was the pastor’s wife and had one of the more emotional performances in the musical. As other characters laughed and danced, Vi remained pensive yet hopeful of seeing her husband return to his normal loving self. Miller set the mood with her haunting dreamy rendition of “Learning to Be Silent”
Remi Budge did an amazing job as Willard. Willard is the shy yet protective comic relief and best friend of Ren. When Willard was learning to dance in Act II Scene I, the audience was laughing and cheering. Budge did a wonderful job keeping a straight face as his friends attempted to teach Willard how to dance. Additionally, Budge’s performance of the song “Mama Says” was one of the funniest of the entire musical.
Jenna Hill as Ethel, Ren’s mother, did a great job. While her character did not have a solo song, Hill was the inspiration behind Ren confronting Reverend Shaw on a heart to heart basis. Hill’s heartfelt and compassionate plea for Ren to go after what he wanted was truly uplifting.
Cameron Allsup did a fair job as Chuck, Ariel’s ex-boyfriend. Chuck is a minor character in the musical and not a true antagonist.
Allsup’s rendition of “The Girl Gets Around”
Macy Rand played Rusty, Ariel’s best-friend. Rand can act and her best performance was when she was acting ditzy and in love with Willard. Her tone and mannerisms were well played and believable. However, Rand’s “Let’
Finally, Chuck Ellis played the dual role of Wes, brother-in-law to Ethel, and Cowboy Bob. Ellis did an amazing job as Wes. His southern
accent and his manner added depth to a supporting role. However, his song “Still Rockin'” was simply sub-par. I’m not sure if it was intentionally designed to be that bad or if it was just a bad day to be Bob. The song from the beginning seemed off cue and often times the words were unintelligible.
Artisan Center Theater’
Stage Adaptation by Dean Pitchford & Walter Bobbie
Based on the Original Screen Play by Dean Pitchford
Music by Tom Snow, Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Artisan Center Theater
Director – Dennis Canright
Stage Manager – Terry Shaw
Music Director – Richard Gwozdz
Set Design – Dennis Canright
Scenic Design/Painting – Meredith Stowe
Choreographer – Michael Sylvester
Costume Designer – Jennifer Cadenhead
Resident Costumer Designer – Rebecca Roberts
Properties Design – Tina Ellis
(This production is double cast. This is the cast list
for the performance reviewed)
Ren- Kevin Acosta
Ethel- Jenna Hill
Rev. Shaw- Mark Winter
Vi- Tamera Miller
Ariel- Meredith Stowe
Rusty- Macy Rand
Urleen- Patricia Cannon
Wendy Jo- Scout Harrell
Donna- Hannah Allen
Chuck- Cameron Allsup
Travis- Max Mandudi
Lyle- Daniel Curl
Derek- Tevin Cates
Eddie- Drew Sifford
Willard- Remi Budge
Jeter- Aaron Otteson
Bickle- Matthew Gil
Garvin- Carroll Savage
Bubba- Sean Calvin
Lulu- Chalea Blair
Wes- Chuck Ellis
Coach Dunbar- David Otteson
Eleanor Duncan- Evelyn Kryska
Principal Clark- J. Ben R. Friberg
Betty Blast- Faith Hope
Cowboy Bob- Chuck Ellis
Anna- Tyler Vaden
Marybeth- Rebekah Beaman
Laney- Jordan Thomas
Reanna- Lindsey Ellis
Georgia- Delaney Ellis
Molly- Lauren Kendrik
Town Kids-Erikah Blair, Gabriel Blair, Nathaniel Blair
Kristina Bain (Ariel)
Hannah Allen (Rusty)
Tevin Cates (Willard)
Reviewed performance on January 4th, 2013
Saturday matinee at 3:00 pm
Ticket prices are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays: Adults $14
Seniors (60+) / Students $14, Children (12 & under) $7
Fridays, Saturdays: Adults $18, Seniors (60+)/Students $16
Children (12 & under) $9
Artie’s Playhouse: Child $5, Adult $7
*EFFECTIVE JAN 1, 2013: Kids $5, Adults $7. Group Discounts Available.*
For tix & info call 817-284-1200 or go to www.artisanct.