BWW Review: FOOTLOOSE at Surflight Theatre - The reopening of the Beach Haven landmark!
Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, New Jersey reopens with 'Footloose!'
'Footloose' follows a Chicago teen, Ren McCormack, who recently moved to a small town where dancing and rock music have been banned. As he struggles to fit in, he also fights to change the minds of the conservative Reverend Shaw Moore and the entire town. The music is written by Tom Snow with lyrics by Dean Pitchford and additional lyrics by Kenny Loggins. The book is by Pitchford and Walter Bobbie.
Surflight Theatre's production of 'Footlose' was energetic from beginning to end with much credit to a terrific ensemble! The talent on the stage was at an all-time high from the principal cast members to the chorus. The choreography was more intricate than most regional theaters that impressed us all, especially a few of the backflips that were performed onstage, causing majority of the audience to gasp and clap. The sets transformed seamlessly into each new scene. After the show, the cast appears outside, still in costume, for an informal meet and greet with the audience, giving them an opportunity for pictures, autographs and small talk.
Karen Babcock Brassea spoke about her two big responsibilities of Director and Choreographer. "It's fun. It's the way the I work. My choreography informs my directing and vice versa," Brassea said. "We have a very talented company too so you can raise the standards when they have the training," Brassea added. When speaking on the show itself, she said "When I first looked at the piece I thought this is really fluff, but really it has a deeper message about being open to people who are in new in town, about forgiveness and even about healing."
Michael McAssey explained that the cast performs to tracks while he conducts them from up in the loft. "For financial reasons and just to get this place back up on its feet, we had the tracks...we would love to have live music and we hope to have live again next year but we are doing a little bit as we start out again," McAssey said. When speaking about the talent that had performed at Surflight in the past, McAssey said "This was the starting ground for many, many, many Broadway people. Andy Einhorn who's conducting Bette Midler's 'Hello Dolly' started here and Seth Rudetsky started here!"
The cast featured Ricky Pope as Reverend Moore, Logan Farine as Ren, Meggan Herod as Ariel, Andrew Foote as Cowboy Bob (recently returned from the Korean Jekyll & Hyde as Spider and stand by for the title role which he performed often), Adrianne Hick as Lulu/Betty Blast (also just returned from the recent Jekyll & Hyde Korean tour), Jakki Joia as Vi Moore, and Colleen Burns Dunn as Ethel McCormack. Also featuring the 2017 Resident Cast including: Emily Cobb, Bobby Davis, Gabriella Nina Gross, Jonah Hale, Sabrina Kalman, Daniel Neale, David Ossmon, McKenna Christine Poe, William Rivera, Madeline Rodrigue, Eoin Rude, Wyatt Slone, Seth Weinstein, Donte Wilder, and Vision Wilkes-Davis.
Logan Farine, Ren McCormack, really wowed the crowd with his acting ability, his wow factor energetic dancing and Broadway worthy voice. I would not be surprised if Farine ended up on the Great White Way in the future. Meggan Herod, Ariel Moore, has a beautiful voice and didn't miss a beat when portraying the wild, rebellious, yet sweet teenager. Vision Wilkes-Davis, who portrays the goofy, lovable Willard, had the audience laughing every time he was on stage and had a charming voice. Nina Gabriela Gross, Rusty, has a powerhouse voice that will more than likely lead her to NYC alongside Farine, Herod, and Davis. Her performance of 'Let's Hear it for the Boy' was electrifying and had the audience singing along with her and dancing in their seats!
Farine said "Meggan and I had done this show together before but with different directors so it was great to think of lines in different ways that we hadn't thought about before." Herod added "It was great to explore new parts that we hadn't before."
Vision Wilkes-Davis said about his role "Originally it was very challenging... because if you look at him on a surface level he can be seen as a stereotype, a hillbilly. So I had to really find the heart of that character and make everything real because everything he does is goodfy but it has to come from the heart."
Andrew Foote who portrayed two roles in the show, the gym teacher and Cowboy Bob, was recently part of the 'Jekyll & Hyde' Korean tour said "It's a totally different experience coming from a seven-million-dollar production to reopening a theatre. This theatre is a huge part of my life. I've done a 120 shows here, so to come back and be here for the reopening of it is incredible."
Ricky Pope, Reverend Shaw Moore, said he's performed this character in two other productions and it was fun to see the different choices he could make. He spoke about the most challenging part of this production which was the time frame. "We started rehearsals June 11th and opened June 23rd. It was a trial by fire and not only are we performing this show at night, we are rehearsing for a new show during the day."
'Footloose' runs for 5 more performances: July 5, 6, 7, 8 at 8:00 PM and July 9 at 2:00 PM.
Surflight Theatre was founded in 1950 by Joseph P. Hayes. The property houses the theatre, the costume shop, the rehearsal hall and the tech house. In 1975 the Show Place Ice Cream Parlour opened up next to the theatre where patrons can enjoy ice cream, food and a show performed by the singing and dancing staff inside or order a quick ice cream cone at the window during intermission. In 2002, Surflight became a full member of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance as well as the South Jersey Cultural Alliance and had its curtain up for 65 seasons.
After surviving a fire in 2012, then horrific flood damage from Hurricane Sandy just 6 months later, and then closing in 2015 after filing bankruptcy. A year ago, Surflight members, as well as the surrounding community, thought the property would be torn down and turned into a parking lot. During the time that the theatre was closed, trespassers took it upon themselves to vandalize and steal equipment from inside including lighting, speakers and even the curtain. After renovating the stage, replacing all that was lost and conducting a big clean-up effort, Surflight finally opened its doors with 'Footloose!' after being dark for 2 years.
Be sure to check out Surflight Theatre's upcoming shows: 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' July 11-23, 'Newsies' July 25- August 13, 'Hairspray' August 15-27, 'Million Dollar Quartet' August 29-September 10 and 'Home for the Holidays- A Surflight Celebration' December 8-17. The theatre is located at 201 Engleside avenue, Beach Haven, NJ 08008. Tickets can be purchased online at www.surflight.org or by calling the box office at 609-492-9477.
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Photo Credit: Studio 63 Photography