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Footloose The Musical – Review

Footloose The Musical Presented By Arts Collective Theatre

The year was 1984. My beloved Detroit Tigers captured the World Series (and haven’t won one since.) The loveable and iconic Clara Peller debuted in the highly successful, “Where’s the Beef?” commercial campaign for Wendy’s. Among a crowded field of big-name films, Footloose, starring the star- studded cast of Kevin Bacon, John Lithgrow, Chris Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker, became the seventh grossing film of the year, taking in a cool $80 million at the box office.

1984 was also the year that I chose to leave the catholic priesthood after 12 years of religious life.

What, you may ask, does this last event have to do with anything else? Let me explain.

My departure from the priesthood was very much related to Footloose in terms of similar story lines. What I was going through in terms of my decision to leave the ministry resonated with the plot of Footloose.

In Footloose, Ren McCormack is a teenager raised in Chicago, who then moved with his mother to the small town of Bomont, Utah, to live with his aunt and uncle. Shortly after arriving, Ren became friends with Willard Hewitt, and from him learned the city council has banned dancing and rock music. Much of the film is devoted to McCormack’s attempt to undo the chilling ban on rock music and dance for the youth of Bomont.

When I saw the film in 1984, I recall my strong identification with its message. Like McCormack, I was emerging from a stifling catholic church whose doctrines on marriage and divorce, contraception, abortion, homosexuality etc. were choking the life out of good and decent persons. I found myself attempting to minister within the restrictive and often irrational confines of church dogma and teachings. I was living in my own Bomont Utah!

ACT (Arts Collective Theatre) perform live theatre under the direction of Artistic Director Chris Rabideau and its mentors – Leslie McCurdy (technical dancing), Valene Daniel (musical direction), Valentine Yaghoubzadeh (costume design), Moya McAlister (marketing, publicity etc).

For their fifth season, ACT elected to offer Footloose as their marquis presentation. And what a presentation it is! One expects that in a span of five years that maturity and growth and will occur. With each offering, ACT cements itself as one of the leading Theatrical Companies in a theatrically rich community.

Whether it was opening night jitters before a large and enthusiastic audience, I found parts of the first half of the show lacking somewhat in enthusiasm – as if the cast was holding back. But, what a difference intermission can bring. The second half of the show rocked and soared to great heights.

There was great performances by the entire cast and ensemble. In particular, Floyd Nolan-Ducedre as McCormack, and co-lead Gillian Marshall as Ariel Moore, led the way with song, dance and well delivered dialogue. But my favourite performance was by Kyle Cloutier as Willard Hewitt, the irascible and lovable character, part Forest Gump and part Gomer Pyle. He knocked it out of the park for me.

And what a job this cast did with those classic hits spawned by Footloose in the 1980s: Footloose, Let’s Hear It For the Boy, Almost Paradise, Holding Out For A Hero. I felt transported back to those memorable Detroit and Windsor dance night clubs like Backstreet, Menjos and JPs.

The costumes, set designs, music, lighting and sound are trademark ACT and the result of some very professional and talented mentors.

Footloose continues this weekend and next weekend. Showtimes are:
Saturday, September 7 at 8 pm
Sunday, September 8 at 2 pm
Friday, September 13 at 8 pm
Saturday, September 14 at 8 pm
Sunday, September 15 at 2 pm

Tickets available at The Capitol Theatre Box Office or online.

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