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Musical offers 'something for everyone'

'Footloose' opens at the Playhouse

POSTED: April 9, 2013 12:29 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

Gordy Hunt, center, as Pastor Shaw Moore, rehearses a church scene with fellow “Footloose” cast members at the Cumming Playhouse.

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A high-energy musical with ties to a hit 1980s teen movie comes to the Cumming Playhouse stage this month.

“Footloose” by Mello Drama Productions began its three weekend run Thursday night.

Based on the 1984 movie of the same name, “Footloose” the musical was developed in 1998.

Neva Garrett, who directs the local show, said that while audiences will find many similarities with the movie version — which launched the careers of Kevin Bacon, Sarah Jessica Parker and John Lithgow — the stage version offers more heart.

“It’s a much richer script,” she said. “There is a beautiful, heartfelt ending [to the musical], which the movie doesn’t even come close to.”

Hannah Chapman, the musical director of the show who also plays Ethel McCormack, agreed.

“There’s all sorts of stuff in [the musical],” Chapman said. “It’s really beautiful. The next to the last scene just made me fall in love with the whole thing.”

While the story may be more complex, audiences will find the same fun spirit as the 1984 movie. It revolves around Ren McCormack, a Chicago teenager who relocates with his mother, Ethel, to the sleepy town of Bomont after his father leaves them.

Ren is soon shocked to learn that dancing is illegal in Bomont, a move which came after a tragic car crash that killed four teenagers, including the son of the town’s minister, Pastor Shaw Moore.

His daughter, Ariel Moore, and Ren begin a romance and eventually, with the help of their best friends Willard and Rusty, lead the way for dancing to return to the small town.

The young leads — Kaleb Hunt, who portrays Ren, and Shelby Garrett, as Ariel — said they were excited for the chance to play well-known characters.

“It’s something that we’ve always seen the movie and always been like, ‘Wow, Footloose is so cool,’” Shelby Garrett said.

Besides being cool, she added, Ariel has been a challenging character to portray.

“She’s an interesting character because … her emotions and thoughts and feelings, you have to portray them without saying them. She has all this anger and confusion and pain and this stuff inside her person. But she can’t walk around like that because she’s the preacher’s kid and she has to walk around with a smile on her face.”

Hunt said he was not as familiar with the movie version of the show as most of the cast.

“I’d seen the original movie with Kevin Bacon once, so I was nowhere near as familiar as everyone else,” he said. “But I picked it up pretty fast.”

He said probably the biggest challenge was the singing. While he’s a classical music major in college with plenty of singing experience, Hunt’s voice falls in a different range than his character.

“I’m a bass and Ren’s character mostly sings alto to high tenor, so that’s challenging, but it’s been better than I thought it was going to be,” he said.

That’s a good thing, since audiences likely will find themselves tapping their feet along to 1980s hits such as “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” and “Almost Paradise.”

Nichole Black, the show’s assistant director who also plays Ren’s aunt Lulu, said the show offers entertainment that the whole family will enjoy.

“It’s got something all ages can relate to,” she said. “The adults can look and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve dealt with that with my teenager,’ and the teenagers can say the same about their parents.

“You’ve got tearful moments, you’ve got funny moments, and then another moment it’s a love scene … there really is something for everybody.”

 

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