BWW Reviews: Can't Sit Still at FOOTLOOSE
Early in the first act of the Tom Snow - Dean Pitchford 1998 musical adaptation of the 1984 movie, Footloose, Ren declares his passion for dancing - "I can't sit still" - and, indeed, by the end of the evening at the Pickard Theatre, the audience for Maine State Music Theatre echoes his mantra. They are cheering, swaying, and shouting to the music, and embracing the exuberant, touching message of this show. Directed and choreographed brilliantly by Patti Colombo (assisted by Karl Warden) and performed by a dynamic cast, this fourth and final production of MSMT's 2014 season dazzles and delights.
To see Footloose on the heels of Colombo's previous production at MSMT, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, is to appreciate the range and depth of her talent - so stylistically different are these musicals. For Footloose, she brings to life the vivid contrasts and subliminal conflicts of the Reagan 80s with rousing energy, a wicked wit, and an unerring instinct for the truth that touches the heart. Her dances soar to the raucous pop anthems and ballads of the period with her signature sense of story telling, character-driven choreography, athleticism, and an unabashed ability to conjure up real emotion.
Music Director Aaron McAllister shapes the score with brio, finding the raw energy in the big numbers and the tenderness in the quiet ones, and he is blessed with a gifted musical theatre ensemble.
As the rebellious teenagers, Ren and Ariel, Eric Sciotto and Kristen Martin light up the stage with their dynamic performances. Sciotto's Ren is infused with a high-tension mixture of anger, revolt, searing honesty, and a hidden vulnerability. He is a mesmerizing, electric dancer and a singer able to do justice to both the rousing pop numbers and the more lyrical songs. From the minute he takes the stage to the final curtain, he delivers a riveting performance. Martin's sweet, sassy, and sad Ariel radiantly complements him. She endows Ariel with a feline grace as a dancer and a passionate lyricism as a vocalist.
Cary Michelle Miller makes a brassy, big-voiced Rusty; Timothy Hughes is a dim, loveable, lumbering Willard; Will Ray as Chuck Cranston is a convincing bully. The supporting ensemble of teens and Texans are uniformly excellent singing dancing actors, and they bring individualized detail to their roles. Special mention to Alex Larson (Garvin), Kevin Nietzel (Travis), Dylan Cole Passman (Dylan), Zoe Raphael (Urleen), and Sarah Marie Jenkins (Wendy Jo) for finely etched cameos.
In the adult contingent, Heidi Kettering and Charis Leos bring depth to their portrayal of the mothers, Vi Moore and Ethel McCormick. Their duet, "Learning to Be Silent" and Kettenring's "Can You Find It in Your Heart?" are poignant, beautifully sung moments. As the Reverend Shaw Moore around whom all the town controversy swirls, David Ruprecht delivers a deeply human, warmly touching performance, which gains in stature as the character lets his façade crumble and his true feelings emerge. David Girolmo as the stern coach, Lore Eure and Jim Ruttman as Ren's conservative aunt and uncle round out the Bomont townsfolk.
Charles S. Kading has outdone himself in the elegant set design, creating a deceptively simple, two-dimensional look reminiscent of Edward Hopper or Andrew Wyeth for the Bomont scenes, a garish neon ambiance for the bar and burger joints, and a romantic "almost paradise" of the starry night at the train tracks and bridge buttresses. The numerous scene changes are fluid, aided by flies and projections, and the final dance extravaganza is replete with glittery surprises. Dan Efros's lighting is equally virtuosic, alternating bright oranges, greens, and reds in contrast to violet and blues, and adding dancing spotlights and strobe effects. Kurt Alger captures the look of the 80s in the tight jeans, graphic tees, cowboy accessories, and big hair, while Colin Whitely conjures up the metallic, amplified sound of the decade all the while maintaining a fine acoustical balance.
Footloose caps a triumphant season for MSMT, one that has taken the audience on a journey from the 1950s (Buddy Holly) and 1980s (Footloose) to the 1850s (Chamberlain, Seven Brides), from pop and rock to legitimate Broadway styles. It has been a season which has consistently demonstrated the company's range, versatility, and stunning performance and production values. Midcoast Maine is truly fortunate to boast such an artistic resource - one which stands shoulder to shoulder with the finest theatre companies anywhere!
Photos Courtesy of Maine State Music Theatre, Jenny Sharp, photographer