Sunday, February 10, 2013


This year’s (mostly) children’s show at Cumberland County Playhouse is Footloose. I love these productions. Every year CCP does a show that’s mostly children and young people and it’s always a fun show to see. I also have a confession to make: I love the movie Footloose (original, of course) and I even own the movie soundtrack.

I couldn’t help but wonder how they were going to translate a movie with a great soundtrack into an actual staged musical. The staged version varied only slightly from the movie version, and they were able to make the songs fit in with the show nicely.

Taken from CCP's facebook page
Directed and choreographed by Leila Nelson, this production of Footloose was fun and full of young people having a good time. The set was designed by Jim Crabtree, and as per usual, was pretty amazing. I’ve always thought that the children that participate in these productions are getting an amazing opportunity to work with professionals at every level and getting a chance to see how a professional theatre could run.

For those who don’t know the movie (how could you NOT know the movie?!), I’ll give you a brief rundown. Ren McCormack and his mother leave the big city of Chicago to move in with family after Ren’s father leaves them. They end up in Bomont, a small mid-west town that is controlled by an extremely strict preacher and his cronies on the town council. The number one rule in Bomont? No dancing allowed.

Ren is played by Isaiah Banegas. I’ve seen Isaiah in many productions at CCP, so it was nice to get to see him taking a lead role and doing it so well. Ren is an angry young man, for many reasons, but he just wants to fit in. It’s a double sided character. On one hand, he’s very “worldly” compared to the Bomont kids. On the other hand, he’s seeking approval and running into brick walls no matter which way he turns. Banegas did a great job of showing both aspects of Ren’s personality.

Preacher’s daughter Ariel was played by DeAnna Etchison. Complete with red boots and a need to rebel, Ariel fights the need to be the daughter her father wants while still being the person she wants to be. Her relationship with her father is strained, at best, and her sudden attraction to Ren has made things worse. Etchison has a lovely voice and I enjoyed watching her onstage. Her ability to portray Ariel’s need to break out of her life and her town was charming to watch. You couldn’t help but cheer for her through the entire show.

Resident best friends Rusty and Willard were played by Emily Swafford and Lenny Lively. Both were hilariously funny in their roles. Rusty just wants Willard to pay attention to her and Willard is so awkward and shy that you can’t help but laugh at their interactions. Lively got the most laughs on stage the entire night. He had a way of taking the character of Willard and hamming him up, without making you feel weird about it (if you’ve ever seen an actor ham up a role that made you feel weird, you’ll understand what I mean). 

Reverend Shaw Moore and his wife Vi Moore are played by Jason Ross and Weslie Webster. Both resident actors at Cumberland County Playhouse, it was no surprise that they took their roles and owned them. Having seen them both play a variety of roles, it’s nice to know that you’re always going to get consistently good acting from them, without feeling like you’re seeing the same character over and over again. Webster’s Vi stands strong behind her husband, but lets him know when he’s making a decision that will hurt more than help. Despite several years of the Reverend’s stand-offish and strict personality, Vi lets him come to his personal realizations without alienating him.

Taken from CCP's facebook page
Some of the best numbers in the production were the group numbers from the kids. The show started with the title number, “Footloose”, and it was the perfect start to the show. It allowed the ensemble members to get a chance to shine, right from the beginning. “Somebody’s Eyes” was also a great number and helped show how much a small town can be like a fishbowl. I know I often felt like I was always being watched when I was growing up. Heck, sometimes I STILL feel that way. It’s a part of small town life. The most hilarious number in the entire show went, of course, to Lenny Lively’s Willard. “Mama Says” is basically a collection of crazy (but somehow true) things that Willard’s mother has told him throughout his life. It was great moment for laughs in the show.

This show is worth your time if you enjoy seeing a bunch of kids and teens on stage having a BLAST. It would be great for families with children, and great if you just loved the movie. Footloose plays at Cumberland County Playhouse thru February 24th. You can get tickets by visiting their website HERE, or by calling the box office at 931-484-5000. And if you’re into the whole social media thing, you can find them on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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