By Richard Lyne
The ACU Department of Theatre put on an emotional and lively showing of the 1998 Broadway musical Footloose that had some audience members quite literally singing out the doors.
Based on 1984’s film Footloose, the musical is similar in most important ways. After moving from Chicago to the backwoods town of Bomont, teenager Ren McCormack discovers that his energetic personality and love of dancing are both firmly opposed by the older residents. Unbeknownst to Ren, the town was shaken to its core by tragedy after four teens met their demise in an alcohol-fueled car accident, prompting Reverend Shaw Moore to pressure the town council into banning dancing altogether. Moore insists that dancing encourages the evils of substance abuse and loose morals, and his wife and daughter feel hopelessly ignored by the staunch reverend. As Ren attracts the attention of Moore’s daughter, Ariel, and the ire of the town’s adults, the youth must ultimately decide whether to unite in protest against the law.
For students, this particular musical prods both deep emotional wounds and recent controversies. ACU revised its policy that had banned dancing at social events just last year. But more seriously, the student body has had to endure more than its share of tragic losses at the hands of vehicular accidents. Instead of seeing Footloose as a black-and-white battle between tradition and youthfulness, the audience is able to empathize with those in the play who act out of their grief and deeply understand what it means to find a way to move on from tragedy.
Of course, it’s the actors and crew who truly make for a memorable evening. Jace Reinhard (Ren McCormack) definitively embodies the combination of teenage angst and carpe diem attitude that brings life to silent Bomont, Pleasantville-style. But the best performance of the evening has to go to Jacob Alexander for his truly refined delivery as the Reverend Shaw Moore. Where some of the cast seemed to have voices made raw by constant rehearsal, Alexander’s only weariness was the emotional burden of his character, a man struggling daily to balance his obligations to God and community with the needs of his family. As he cries out for God for guidance, the persona of a heartless antagonist falls by the wayside.
What really has the audience on their feet is more than just acting, though. From Ren’s first heated dance number to Coach Dunbar’s hilarious tango with his basketball, the action, like Ren himself, “can’t stand still.” Simply the name Footloose brings back the urge to break out in the iconic titular song. It’s catchy. No fan of the ‘80s, rock, dancing, great acting or feeling alive will want to miss out on this one.
Footloose will be running on Friday and Saturday nights for the next two weekends, April 20-21 and 26-27, in Fulks Theatre at 7:30 p.m.
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