Cuttin' Footloose

The hit musical at the Trop finds the emotional heart of the story

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 14, 2009

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A scene from the show.

Footloose, like the Tropicana’s previous musical presentation in its showroom, Fame, is a stage musical developed from a hit movie. The original movie in 1984, a drama with music and dancing, starred a young, rising star named Kevin Bacon. What made Footloose such a fan favorite was a dynamic combination of terrific pop songs, high powered dancing and a storyline that had some real emotional depth, a rarity in musical entertainment. And, like Fame, it is currently being remade as a movie, scheduled for release next year.

The version at the Tropicana finds that emotional core with perhaps the best acting this reviewer has seen in a musical presentation locally. That said, the dancing and singing is of a regional theater quality. It’s acceptable, but not at the top tier that is often seen in casino adaptations of musicals. This cast is mostly young and just starting out in their musical careers. However, if you are looking for a fun night out at a reasonable price, Footloose delivers just that for just $25. If you’ve seen the prices for touring companies of Broadway shows, you know that is a real bargain.

Ren (Peter Kriss) is a savvy city kid from Chicago who is forced to move with his single mom to a town in the sticks. Not only that but dancing has been banned in the town. This is a crushing blow to Ren; it’s bad enough he is stuck in the sticks but he can’t blow off some steam and dance?

The ban on dancing and rock music came about because the local minister, the Rev Shaw Moore (Michael James Hegarty) made sure the city ordinance passed after four teens were killed in an accident on the way home from a dance. Ren is determined to shake up this town and convince them that dancing is not the root of all evil.

Joining him in his quest for booty shaking in Beaumont are his new friend Willard (Mike Kelton) and Ariel Moore (Sara Ruzicka), the reverend’s daughter who is a bit of a wild child.

As did the film, the musical presentation includes a slew of rock and pop dance hits performed by the cast including the title track written by Kenny Loggins, Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero,” “Girl Gets Around” by Sammy Hager, “Almost Paradise” by Loverboy’s Mike Reno and Heart’s Ann Wilson, and the infectious “Let’s Hear It For the Boy.”

The latter is a highlight and features Ren teaching Willard how to dance so he can impress his girlfriend Rusty (Liz Clark Golson). In a production of Footloose, Willard often steals the show, and Mike Kelton makes sure that happens in this production. He is hilarious. Another highlight is an excellent rendition of “Almost Paradise” sung by Kriss and Ruzicka.

Other members of the cast include Danielle Arci as Wendy Jo, and Allison Mickelson as Vi Moore, Ariel’s mom. Mickelson is a regular performer with Long Beach Island’s Surflight Theater as performer, teacher and instrumentalist.

Footloose might not remind you of a Broadway production, but for the price and with all the great music, it offers an entertaining night out.

Where: Tropicana Showroom
When: Now to Nov. 4; Sat. 9pm; Sun. 7pm; Mon. 8pm; Tues.-Wed., 3:30 & 8pm
How Much: $25

Where Are They Now?

Some of the cast members from the original film version of Footloose went on to major Hollywood success.

Kevin Bacon (Ren) not only had a popular game named after him, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, he went on to star in numerous other movies including Tremors, Flatliners, A Few Good Men, JFK, Apollo 13 and Mystic River.

Lori Singer (Ariel) starred in the TV version of Fame before starring in Footloose. Her career fizzled out in the 1990s after a few films like The Falcon and the Snowman and Warlock.

Chris Penn (Willard) Sean Penn’s younger brother went on to become a solid character actor in many other films including At Close Range, Pale Rider, Mobsters, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance and Rush Hour. He died from heart disease in 2006 at the age of 40.

Sarah Jessica Parker (Rusty) was a child star who went on to superstardom as Carrie Bradshaw on HBO’s Sex and the City and in the films such as Striking Distance and Mars Attacks!

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