When the Rev. Shaw Moore (ably portrayed by Conor Sheehan) sings his two soliloquies, they become every fathers wish. When his wife, Vi (quietly and convincingly played by Molly McCue), sings a mothers forbearance, every parent in the audience may feel a pang of recognition.
These are a few of several reflective moments in the otherwise high-energy show Footloose. Parental love for bewildered teenagers comes through clearly. Its one quality that separates Footloose from the more popular musicals in this genre: Grease and Bye Bye Birdie. Quiet, grownup concern shines through the teenage bramble of prickly energy, anxiety and uncertainty.
Footloose is the 2010 musical offering by Durango High Schools Thespian Troupe 1096. It opened last weekend and runs through Nov. 13. The 1998 Broadway musical was based on a 1984 film of the same title starring Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormack, a Chicago teenager whose father, at the beginning, has abandoned the boy and his mother. They accept an uncles offer of refuge in Bomont, a small Midwestern town. But as every new-kid-on-the-block will tell you, starting over in a new school in a new town is difficult, as the fatherless Ren soon finds out.
Loss, however, is shared by more than one character in Footloose. More wont be given away here, except to say the company delivers a fine rendition of an American musical with more than a little cross-generational substance.
Director Mona Wood-Patterson has cast widely across age and stage experience to good effect. All the principal actors acquit themselves well, especially the student actors portraying the older generation.
Among the actors playing their own age, Joe Panelli (Willard) shows marvelous comic timing. The nerdy farm boy is a perfect foil for Dallas Padovens city-smart Ren. Padoven and Maxie Parker (Ariel), the central teenage pair, range over a series of emotions confusion, anger, yearning and mature understanding. Their splendid romantic duet, Almost Paradise, is beautifully rendered on one of designer Charles Fords most memorable sets a huge railroad trestle. Rarely has a song-and-dance been so creatively staged on such a dramatically narrow platform.
Credit Wood-Pattersons entire creative team for surprising the audience with highly theatrical evocations of small-town, small high school settings. Somebodys Eyes morphed from peeping hallway lockers into Main Street shops. Holding Out for a Hero started with a wish and va-voomed into a superhero motorcycle ride. For balance, a cowboy, country and Western scene in yet another small town provided realistic balance when Rusty (engagingly played by Crystal Marney) sings Lets Hear it for the Boy and praises ordinary guys like Willard.
The production team created a matrix for these wonderful performers to shine. Musical directors Tom Kyser and Jill Langoni and the pit band provided solid support throughout. Choreographer Denise Hagemeister created fresh and engaging dances. Costumer JoAnn Nevils drew on retro clothing to give this 80s show the look it needed, and stage manager Sarah Bolton controlled an extremely complicated swirl of set changes, sound and light cues.
Only an unpredictable sound system caused some trouble opening weekend, something that needs to be fixed by the next round of shows that begin Friday.
This is a family show. Young people will love the color and energy, the dubious charm and perils of high school. Adults will recognize themselves in the thoughtful portrayal of parental confusion, love and hope for the next generation.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.