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Review: FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL at Bellevue Little Theatre

Review: FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL at Bellevue Little Theatre

The production runs through October 2nd.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing FOOTLOOSE: the Musical directed by Joey Hartshorn at Bellevue Little Theatre. This was my second viewing, which afforded me a closer look at the entire production. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the second time around was even better than the first.

FOOTLOOSE, the 1998 hit musical based on the iconic film starring Kevin Bacon, continues its toe tapping, catchy performances on stages all over the country. Right now Bellevue Little Theatre is the current Bomont, a small Midwestern town with big ideas of how their teenagers should behave. When Ethel McCormack and her son Ren, are abandoned by their husband and father, they move to Bomont to live with her sister and brother in law. High-spirited city boy Ren discovers he doesn't fit in. To save himself from death by boredom, he dances, only to learn that dancing is prohibited in the town ever since a group of four young people died plunging off the bridge after leaving a dance.

The story line is simple. But it needs strong characters to carry it. There are several among this solid cast that do an exceptional job.

Will Hastreiter is an incredible dancer/singer who also has the gift of becoming Ren rather than merely delivering lines. His powerful voice fills the theatre, never losing control even with his constant movement. He is a star who demands attention and makes my feet move to his rhythm. And! He can do a one-handed flip.

His co-lead, Aimee Correa as Ariel, matches his powerful performance with explosive energy. Whether she is "getting around" with bad boy Chuck Cranston (well played, Donovan Carr), matching wits with Ren, or longing to gain her father's love, Correa does it all so well. Her vocals are also a match for Hastreiter. The two are undeniably good together.

Review: FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL at Bellevue Little Theatre
Aimee Correa (Ariel) and Will Hastreiter (Ren)

Justin Dehmer who plays the authoritarian Reverend Shaw Moore and Cynthia Jones who plays his soft spoken wife Vi (and is Justin's real life wife), are perfectly cast. Dehmer is compelling as the emotionally torn father who has lost his son and can only feel his own pain. Jones is the yin to his yang: quiet where he is vociferous; calm where he is passionate; reasonable where he has lost his head. They both have excellent vocal and acting ability-never overacting, but expressing their characters' feelings and personalities with sensitivity. Their vocals are pitch perfect. They are just right.

Review: FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL at Bellevue Little Theatre
Aimee Correa (Ariel), Justin Dehmer (Rev Shaw Moore), Cynthia Jones (Vi Moore)​​​​​​

Heather Wilhelm as Ren's mother Ethel is in a word: strong. She claims not to be a strong, self-sufficient mom, but you rapidly see that she's got it all wrong. She is strong. Her love for Ren is palpable and hers is the voice he hears when he doesn't know what to do. You cannot ignore Wilhelm's presence on the stage. Her voice rings Broadway strong and true.

Review: FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL at Bellevue Little Theatre
Dale Hartshorn (Wes), Sally Grosenbach (Lulu), Heather Wilhelm (Ethel), Cynthia Jones (Vi), and Justin Dehmer (Rev Moore)

Of course, the goofy, good-hearted cowboy wannabe Willard, wonderfully played by Nick Knipe, grabs the most memorable moments of the show with his "Mama Says" routine. It is impossible not to like this guy. But I can't fail to mention "The Boys," Adam J. Fullbright, Rider Mattheis, and Matt Lewis, who add some cool moves and harmony to the number.

Review: FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL at Bellevue Little Theatre
Matt Lewis (Lyle), Adam J. Fullbright (Travis), Nick Knipe (Willard), Rider Mattheis, Will Hastreiter (Ren)

Madison Becker who plays Ariel's BFF, Rusty, is an all around performer. "I Need a Hero" comes across strong. Her rendition of "Somebody's Eyes" with Riley Pope (Urleen) and Ava Winkler (Wendy Jo) is pleasing, although at times it appears they are trying to out-sing each other.

Review: FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL at Bellevue Little Theatre
Ava Winkler (Wendy Jo), Will Hastreiter (Ren), Madison Becker (Rusty), Riley Pope (Urleen)

It isn't just these who make the show. There are unnamed characters in the ensemble who shine. One is Charity Williams who is "on" the whole time she is on stage, whether as a cheerleader, a Burger Blast employee, or a dancer (a very good one!) It is gratifying to watch someone in an ensemble part who relishes being on stage and makes it something special.

Kudos to Kerri Jo Richardson-Watts for her stellar choreography, by the way. Energetic and captivating, it is a huge reason why this show is so good. I am amazed at the ability of the performers to sing while leaping and dancing before the audience.

The music and dancing are the big, boisterous parts of the show. But don't miss the beauty in the quiet. Wilhelm's and Hastreiter's duet in "On Any Sunday" and the Jones, Wilhelm, and Correa trio as they are learning to be silent blend in chilling harmony. Jones' poignant delivery of "He was my son, too," brings tears to my eyes for its authenticity and Dehmer's softening toward Ren as he tells him he's sorry his dad wasn't there for him is real. You can feel healing begin.

A special shoutout to Director Joey Hartshorn for her creative staging. In the gym scene teens are in a noisy, lively cluster while the adults line the stairs along the sides of the stage, not moving, not saying anything. That speaks volumes.

Music Director Todd Brooks and Choreographer Richardson-Watts work effectively in creating pleasing musical numbers, whether they are big ensemble pieces or those featuring a few. There is always something fun to watch while listening to good music.

I need to mention the set design by Dale Hartshorn and vibrant 80's era costuming by Marya Lucca-Thyberg. Both are critical to the overall enjoyment of a show and they met the challenge.

I enjoyed this show immensely the two times I saw it. I would enjoy it a third time or a fourth. It is so fun. So well done. So enjoyable. And! The diction is the clearest I've heard recently. I didn't miss a single word. That makes a difference.

Footloose: The Musical plays at Bellevue Little Theatre through Oct 2nd, 2022. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at the Box Office, at blt.simpletix.com, or calling 402-413-8945. Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

Photo Credit: Analisa Swerczek (Analisalouise Photography)



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