Interview: Barry Pearl's FOOTLOOSE & Always Fancy-Free

Panic! Productions & BarCinBoo Productions’ Footloose the Musical will open at the Colony Theatre on March 2nd

By: Feb. 21, 2024
Interview: Barry Pearl's FOOTLOOSE & Always Fancy-Free
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Interview: Barry Pearl's FOOTLOOSE & Always Fancy-Free

Panic! Productions & BarCinBoo Productions’ Footloose the Musical will open at the Colony Theatre March 2, 2024 (with previews beginning March 1st). Barry Pearl directs (with co-director/choreographer Michelle Elkin) the cast of: Larry Cedar, Robin DeLano, Brady Fritz, Kelsey Lee Smith, Casey Anne Apregan, James Beardsley, Whitney Kathleen Vigil, Sammy Linkowski, Camie Del Rosario, Lauren Lorati, Michael Wells, Christopher Robert Smith, Karen Macarah, Lisa Dyson, Cindy Pearl, and Ceron Jones. Marking the 40th anniversary of the original film and the 25th anniversary of the Broadway musical, Ron Barnett will be musical directing.

Barry managed to free up some time to give me some behind-the-scenes of Footloose.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Barry!

Most welcome. 

You co-directed a production of Footloose with Michelle Elkin last year at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. Have you made any tweaks to this production at the Colony?

Yes. Except for three cast members from the previous production, we now have an entirely new cast. Where we’d combined two characters before, we’ve now added one more adult in the ensemble to assay one of those two as is written. 

There was also some music and a reprise of a song we’d previously cut which has now been added back as well as improvements to the set, beautifully designed by Justin Huen and the element of projections created by Gabriella Griego that we’re very excited about. 

What initially sparked your interest in directing Footloose?

The other half of our production team brought the idea to me after our last success with 13 The Musical. To be honest, initially, I wasn’t fully onboard. Didn’t know if my schedule would accommodate and despite the great score, I felt the book needed lots of mining, plus, I felt that the film barely holds up. It was at that point I decided that I’d take on the task if my partner in musical theatre crime, Michelle Elkin, would come aboard as co- director just in case something might pull me away before going into preproduction. 

Well, then I started digging into the script. I began to believe that we’d be able to tell this story and convey its message with the heart that it needed and in the fashion such a production deserved. 

It all solidified for me when we got the cast we wanted and, ultimately, when Michelle began her process. 

These particular stars aligning in this way compelled my commitment. 

Which of the three cast from the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center production will reprise their roles in the Colony show?

Cindy Pearl, my wife, will reprise her roles as Eleanor and Betty Blast, with a li’l twist in Act 2; Noah Heie, who played Garvin in the previous production, will now take on the roll of Travis; and finally, the Uber talented MaryKate Chapman returns in the Student Ensemble, dance captain and the invaluable assistant to our incomparable, choreographer, Michelle Elkin

One of the writers of Footloose, Dean Pitchford has been quoted as clarifying his script as not about a town that outlawed dancing, but a story of loss and healing. What would your three-line pitch for Footloose be?

Dean also recounts a perspective someone shared with him that hit my heart, and that is, “Anytime you see the word ‘dance’ in the script, exchange it for ‘forgiveness.” 

Footloose is a story of loss, acceptance, transition, re-education and, ultimately, transformation; that at the core of any collective there is a universal similitude that, when recognized and acknowledged, can lead to better understanding between people. 

What do you remember of your viewing of the 1984 film Footloose? What scene or aspect of the film left an impression on you?

I remember loving the film when I saw it in ‘84. I’m a huge fan of Bacon (and anyone who knows me knows how much I love the bacon we eat too…). But on my revisit during my prep for the play, as previously stated, for me, it didn’t hold up. The messages were the same, but I actually feel as though the play fleshes those out better. 

Have you watched the movie again since?

Yes, during my prep for the show. 

What initially brought you into Panic! Productions’ orbit? Was it directing 13 the Musical in 2022?

We actually began our relationship with the first production of 13 The Musical I directed for Panic! and what became Studio C in 2015. 

Since then, we mounted that initial production at The El Portal in NoHo, Camp Rock at what was The NoHo Arts Centre, All Shook Up both in Simi and The El Portal, the second production of 13 The Musical that you referred to in 2022, which my wife and I co-produced with our company, BarCinBoo Productions, Inc., Footloose in Simi and now The Colony Theatre production. 

What ignited your interest in directing?

I began my professional acting career when I was 11 years old in Broadway’s original production of Bye, Bye Birdie (the first rock musical). I co-directed my first professional production of Oliver! (in which I was also an original Broadway cast member) at the MUNY at the age of 20 which starred Sid Caesar as Fagin. 

My late Aunt Rose gave me an 8mm camera for Chanukah when I was 13. I would write, direct, act in and edit short films. So, I always had the desire to “paint the pictures.” 

You teach film arts nationally to the special needs community with Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Film Company. Do you find you use the same parts of your brain to teach as you do in directing?

Though there are many aspects of each discipline which are both different and the same, my brain is my brain. Whatever part of that organ comes to play during either of those turns, I can’t begin to tell you. I can say that there is always excitement, gratification and a wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes with each of those experiences. 

What’s in the near future for Barry Pearl? More directing or more acting?

A very dry vodka martini, straight up with two blue cheese stuffed olives. 

Thank you again, Barry! I look forward to getting Footloose with you!

Looking forward to the same. Go well!

For tickets to the live performances of Footloose through March 17, 2024; click on the button below: