BWW Review: FOOTLOOSE THE MUSICAL at Lake Worth Playhouse
When one thinks of Footloose the Musical, they often think of the original 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon as a rebellious young man fighting a dubious law against dancing in a small Midwestern town. But in 2019, the show's David-and-Goliath themes resonate well in our current political climate. Lake Worth Playhouse's production of Footloose successfully shows the play's empowering message of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity.
Just like the movie, Footloose the Musical tells the story of Ren McCormack (Corydon Gawlikowski), a teenaged boy who is transplanted from the big city of Chicago to the small farming town of Bomont with a single mother (Jill Williams). After a tragic event leaves four teenagers dead, the local pastor, Reverend Shaw Moore (Brian Tivnan) enacts a law that outlaws dancing within the town limits. With the help of the minister's daughter Ariel (Caiti Marlowe) and his new inarticulate friend Willard Hewitt (Quinn Doyle), Ren must convince the stubborn town council to repeal the local ordinance.
Footloose the Musical features a book by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Pitchford, with additional songs by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, and Jim Steinman. Some of the songs featured in the musical include the Top 40 hits "Holding Out for a Hero," "I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man)," "Let's Hear It For the Boy," and the famous title song, "Footloose." The musical first opened on Broadway in 1998 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where it was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score. While Footloose closed after less than two years on Broadway, the show continues to be presented in school and community theater productions throughout the country.
Gawlikowski plays Ren with the gusto and raw energy that is almost resemblant of Bacon's portrayal of Ren in the film. Gawlikowski adds this intuitive style to his dance moves, especially during the number "I Can't Stand Still," even when performing moonwalks, cartwheels, and jetes across the stage. He displays the emotional vulnerability required to deliver a layered performance, especially during Act Two, when he confronts Rev. Moore after the town council votes against repealing the dancing law. While his falsetto notes need improvement, Gawlilowski's mix and chest voice are well-supported during numbers like "Footloose" and "I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man)."
Marlowe returns to Lake Worth Playhouse following her performance as Edythe Herbert in the Stage Door Theatre's final production of My One and Only. She gives one of the most energetic "triple threat" performances of the night as Ariel. Physically, Marlowe is in her element, confidently performing her dance steps with charisma and style, especially during the ever-sexual "The Girl Gets Around". Her relationships are well-defined with her fellow actors throughout the evening, especially with Gawlikowski's Ren and Tivnan's Rev. Moore. Vocally, Marlowe seamlessly transitions from a clear mix voice with a forward placement to a powerhouse belt during "Holding Out for a Hero."
Tivnan gives Rev. Moore a pure heart, allowing audiences to see beyond his character's stubbornness. He adds a sense of love to his blocked off persona. While Tivnan appears hesitant vocally, he manages to remain in tune as he sings his solo numbers (most notably, "Heaven, Help Me"). Colleen Pagano appears strong and poised in her role as Rev. Moore's wife, Vi. During her solo number, "Can You Find It In Your Heart," Pagano effortlessly showcases her smooth yet mature mezzo-soprano voice.
Doyle's performance as Willard is a masterclass in physical comedy. His characterizations are almost resemblant of a cowboy Cosmo Kramer, from his awkward air punches to his popping and locking on the dance floor. Doyle's stage presence and slapstick humor are especially evident during Willard's big number, "Mama Says." At the top of the number, he physicalizes some of the lyrics he sings, from making toast in the shower to spilling coffee while lying down.
Courtney Demri plays Rusty with the perfect balance of passion and innocence. Her interactions with Doyle's Willard contain the right amount of cuteness and sexual tension. While she maintains a resonant and bright tone as she sings, some of her higher belt notes in "Let's Hear It For The Boy" seemed forced.
The show's supporting cast and ensemble maintain a high energy as they perform this dance-heavy musical. Conceptually, director Debi Marcucci brings this production of Footloose together with a unifying concept of community spirit. While Marcucci effectively stages scenes with a few people onstage, crowd scenes appear overpopulated with a cast of 40.
Choreographer Kassie Meiler establishes a movement vocabulary that creatively blends musical theater ballet, hip-hop and country-western. Some memorable dance sections in this production include the line dances at the Bar-B-Que in "Still Rockin'" and the musical's finale, which were cleanly and sharply executed by the show's ensemble.
Music director and conductor Evan Ferrar allows the principal cast's voices to shine through as they blend in duet and small group choral numbers (such as "Somebody's Eyes," "Learning To Be Silent" and "Mama Says"). However, the rest of the ensemble tends to sing their parts at the same fortissimo dynamic, rather than maintaining a balanced sound.
Cindi Taylor's scenic design consists primarily of a skeletal, scaffolding-like structure that is used to represent various locales throughout the town of Bomont. This building is surrounded by several two-dimensional scenic elements including a water tower, bushes, and the railroad bridge. These flat set pieces were treated with some three-dimensional scene painting techniques, courtesy of Taylor and assistant scenic artist Kenisha Luby.
Costume designer Katherine Lamb gives this production of Footloose a colorful wardrobe complete with denim and flannel for the teens (especially during the Bar-B-Que dance hall scene). Lamb also clearly distinguishes the youth in this production from the adults through their 1980's attire. While the teens are frequently seen in their jeans, faded vintage shirts, and the occasional pair of high-top sneakers, the adults are often seen in more conservative ensembles, with suit jackets worn by both men and women.
Lighting designer David Nail illuminates the stage in lighter pinks and similar warm tones which evoke the small town in which Footloose is set. Sound designer Michael Kelly keeps the show's audio relatively simple. The most complex sound effect used in his design is echoic reverb in Rev. Moore's mic to make his sermons sound as if they came from God himself. While there were moments of microphone feedback, the cast was well-amplified over the show's five-piece band.
Overall, Lake Worth Playhouse's production of Footloose the Musical is a fun night out for musical theater nerds and non-theatergoers alike. This show is the perfect introduction to the community theater's 67th year of operation. With high-caliber performances (especially from Marlowe and Pagano), pumped-up choreography, and a soundtrack featuring 80's hits, there is no excuse for you to not cut loose and kick off your Sunday shoes!
Lake Worth Playhouse presents
Footloose the Musical
Stage Adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie. Music by Tom Snow. Lyrics by Dean Pitchford. Additional Music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman.
Directed by Debi Marcucci. Music Direction by Evan Ferrar. Choreography by Kassie Meiler.
Featuring: Corydon Gawlikowski, Jill Williams, Brian Tivnan, Colleen Pagano, Caiti Marlowe, Norita Bandel, Pride Grinn, Carl Van Dyke, Marcia Goldschmidt Kratz, Courtney Demri, Olivia D'Addio, Kendall Jackson, Tom Copeland, Chris Ombres, Brecken Hummer, Valerie Jett, Quinn Doyle, Gary Oppenheim, Tristan Alarcon, Joseph Eberspacher, Devin Butera, Deshon Allen, Dee Bohol, Darissa Cataldo, Brooke Debeer, Monica Harvey, Brecken Hummer, Lauren Keffler, Morgan Kennedy, Sarah Lash, Alexandra Lobdell, Tori Lobdell, Emmanuel "Manny" Oliver, Chris Ombres, Rachel Robinson, Paola Saldaña, Joseph Eberspacher.
Opened: July 11. Closes: July 28.
Tickets are $29-$35. For tickets, visit www.lakeworthplayhouse.org or call (561) 586-6410. The Lake Worth Playhouse is located at 713 Lake Avenue in Lake Worth Beach.