BWW Review: FOOTLOOSE at Marriott Theatre
Marriott Theatre's FOOTLOOSE is a fun-filled throwback to the '80s, with a strong ensemble cast that does full justice to the original film's chart-topping hits. Directed by Gary Griffin and choreographed by William Carlos Angulo, this production radiates infectious energy.
Based on the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon, Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie's stage adaptation of Pitchford's screenplay follows high schooler Ren McCormack (Aidan Wharton) and his mother, Ethel (Heidi Kettenring), as they uproot from their home in Chicago and move to the tiny town of Bomont. Reeling from his father's abandonment, Ren struggles to fit into the stifling confines of this rural society, where dancing is against the law and nearly everyone adheres to the strict moral code laid down by Reverend Shaw Moore (Jim Stanek).
Starring as Ren, Aidan Wharton makes a convincing and likeable teen: stubborn and moody, yet kind and sincere. Lucy Godinez gives a commanding performance as Ariel, Reverend Moore's daughter and Ren's love interest, with a powerful belt that brings down the house in "Holding Out for a Hero". Godinez lends depth to an easily stereotyped role; this girl may 'get around,' but she also dreams big, loves deeply, and knows grief all too well.
Ren and Ariel's friends offer plenty of comic relief (with a memorable turn from Ben Barker as small but feisty Willard Hewitt) and entertaining musical numbers (Monica Ramirez's performance of "Let's Hear It for the Boy" is a stand-out). As the teens unite over a love of dancing and set out to change the law that forbids it, they lead the town into a cross-generational time of soul-searching and, eventually, healing.
As the perpetrator of the dancing ban, Reverend Moore undergoes the most prominent change of heart among the adults of Bomont. However, his wife, Vi, is perhaps a more compelling character. Johanna Mckenzie Miller gives an understated, moving performance as the compassionate, strong woman who fights to hold her family together through a devastating loss. Similarly, Ren's mother, Ethel (Heidi Kettenring), struggles to retain a semblance of normal family life for herself and her son after her husband walks out. Miller and Kettenring's rendition of "Learning to Be Silent" is particularly touching, especially when Ariel joins them in a moment of female solidarity.
Director Gary Griffin allows these more serious moments their due weight, resulting in better character development than many musical adaptations of famous films. That being said, the main draw of FOOTLOOSE will always be its nostalgic 80s hits and the promise of fantastic dancing. And the Marriott certainly delivers on both counts.
FOOTLOOSE plays through June 2 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL 60069. Tickets are available at 847-634-0200 or www.marriotttheatre.com.
Photo credit: Liz Lauren
Review by Emily McClanathan