The company of Footloose, the Musical. Photo: CLT
Footloose, the Musical
Music by Tom Snow, lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Book by Dean Pitchford & Walter Bobbie, based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford
Additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, & Jim Steinman
Directed by Suzann Allen
A review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.
The dancing made Footloose the Musical at Clarksville Little Theatre fun to watch at times. The varied quality in singing and acting made the show a mixed bag at best.
The show, which Suzanne Allen directed, is based on the 1980s movie of the same name, featuring teenager Ren McCormack (Roscoe Henning) who, with his mother Ethel (Cici Burnett), moves from the big city to the small town of Bomont. Ren deals with small-town life while also looking to change a no-dancing law that the strict Rev. Shaw Moore (Gary Crockett) had enacted.
The stage was bare save for a screen at the back of the stage depicting the Footloose logo. The projection changed depending on the scene (Chicago skyline, gas station sign, Bar-B-Q logo, etc.). Basic scene pieces like tables and chairs were used throughout the play depending on the scene. This allowed plenty of room for dance numbers.
As expected, there was plenty of dancing, all of it energetic. Footloose’s namesake opener was full of energetic dancing. From that introduction through the other dance-required numbers, there was spirited movement, fast pace, and smiles on cast members’ faces. Most of all, the show’s closing megamix dance sequence, when dancers could understandably be tired from the previous two hours, was actually the liveliest of them all. Footloose’s selling point is the dancing, and the cast delivered. Kudos to Jenyth Wilcoxon, Amelia Allen, and K Allen for providing much of the choreography.
The same can’t be said for the singing. Often during this number and in several songs later in the show, ensemble members were not projecting and, as a result, allowing the music to drown them out. When audience members could hear them, there were off-key notes and problems maintaining voice control. Henning, as the lead Ren, had the most problems. He is a very, very gifted dancer, but as a singer his high notes were either off-key or completely missed, most notably during the chorus of the love theme, “Almost Paradise”. Perhaps singing an octave lower or having the song in a different key would help.
By contrast, the singing from the reverend’s daughter and Ren’s love interest Ariel (Veronica Riggs) was spot on and beautiful during “Almost Paradise”. In addition, Henning and Riggs’ chemistry was believable. Meanwhile, Shaw’s wife Vi (Natalie Clark) was goosebump-inducing in the yearning “Can You Find It In Your Heart”.
There were also points where more was needed from the acting. Burnett, as Ren’s mother, needed to show more affection toward Ren. Instead of mother and son, they acted like acquaintances kinda sorta getting to know each other. Meanwhile, the town bully and Ren’s rival, Chuck Cranston (John Thwing) was just too wooden and stiff in his acting to be memorable. He needed more attitude. He needed to be more badass.
On the other hand, Crockett, as the reverend, hit the needed emotion whether it was sternness toward his rebel daughter or Ren or dealing with his internal and external struggles during “Heaven Help Me”.
Then, there was Neil Brewer as Willard, Ren’s best friend. Brewer was on a higher level, hilariously portraying this sweet-natured country bumpkin to full effect. He easily earned all of his laughs, a lot coming thanks to his surprising dancing abilities. His love interest Rusty (Meghan Winrich) adds to the hilarity and their awkward interactions made for some of the show’s most memorable moments.
For some of the show, especially the singing, it’s an exercise in patience, but Brewer, Crockett, and the dancing make Footloose, the Musical fun to watch.
September 9, 10, 16 & 17 @ 8:00 pm
September 11 & 18 @ 2:00 pm
Clarksville Little Theater
301 Montgomery Avenue
Clarksville, IN 47129
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.