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a Musical
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COMPANY : Theatre Buford
VENUE : Sylvia Beard Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5484

SHOWING : April 12, 2019 - April 28, 2019



"Footloose" is the story of Ren McCormack, a teenage boy from Chicago. He and his mother move to the small town of Bomont after his father abandons them. Upon arriving, Ren finds himself at odds with most of the town, including the Reverend Moore. The Reverend has convinced the town to outlaw dancing, which Ren finds unbelievable. With the help of Ariel (the Reverend’s daughter) and Willard (a country hick who becomes his best friend), Ren convinces the Reverend to let the teenagers dance, and in the process helps the town to heal from a tragedy that affected them all.


Director Julie Skrzypek
Wes Warnicker Skyler Brown
Willard Hewitt Corey Bryant
Vi Moore Erin Burnett
Lyle Anthony Campbell
Coach Dunbar Ben Higgins
Chuck Cranston Jamey Hoge
Eleanor Leah Keelan
Ren McCormick Sterling McClary
Ren McCormick Sterling McClary
Travis Joseph Jong Pendergrast
Rusty Maggie Salley
Swing Madelayne Shammas
Reverend Shaw Moore Bryant Smith
Wendy Jo Kari Twyman
Lulu Warnicker Stephanie Zandra
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


by playgoer
Monday, May 20, 2019
"Footloose" isn’t the best stage musical, featuring a dance-heavy jukebox score in a story about a town that has banned dancing. The movie it is based on was highly popular, and the musical attempts to profit from the name recognition. In the Theatre Buford production, we fully see the weakness of the script (uncredited in the program, as is Rodgers & Hammerstein Theatricals, although detailed song credits are given). The plot seems paper-thin. Thin plots can sometimes be redeemed by stellar performances and palpable chemistry between the leads, but that is not the case here.

The set (constructed by carpenters Spencer Estes and Greg Hunter) is unattractive, but functional. A two-story structure upstage is a permanent fixture, with three columns that cleverly have segments that swing out to suggest locker doors for one brief high school scene. Other set pieces (pews, a corner door unit, chairs and tables) are brought on for various scenes, and other set elements descend from the flies. Julie Skrzypek’s blocking keeps the action moving along, so the set changes don’t interrupt the flow.

Genny Wynn’s lighting design is a little heavy on gobos, but generally works to keep actors lit and to highlight the action. Natalie Parker’s props work just fine, with some incorporated into Kari Twyman’s kinetic choreography. Chris Lane’s sound design nicely combines sound effects with the pre-recorded musical tracks. Rachael Ottinger Karas’ costumes aren’t terribly flattering, but blend in well with the nondescript set.

While voices of the cast are good, the show doesn’t sound particularly good under Nick Silvestri’s musical direction. The blend of voices never seems quite right. Ms. Twyman’s choreography is very active, which might impact vocal quality in group numbers, but even solos have a certain something lacking.

A casting choice was made to have newcomer Ren’s family be black. That’s all fine and dandy, but nothing is made of the racial disparity between Ren (Sterling McMlary) and preacher’s daughter Ariel (Rosa K. Campos). Given the narrow-minded mindset of the community to which Ren moves, some hostility might be expected. It’s not in the script, though, and Ms. Skrzypek hasn’t made anything of it. That gives the whole production a sunny PC perspective that doesn’t really jibe with the plot point of Ariel being a rebel.

The chemistry between Ariel and Ren is non-existent in this production. Mr. McMlary comes across as a corny comic with mad dancing skills. Ms. Campos looks as old as her supposed mother (Erin Burnett) and gives Ariel a sullen, slutty persona that makes her unlikeable from the start. The innocence/experience quotient of the Ariel-Ren relationship is unbalanced in this production, making their supposed mutual attraction baffling.

Other couples fare better. Bryant Smith and Ms. Burnett have a believable dynamic as Ariel’s parents, and ensemble couplings generally ring true. Best of all are triple-threat Corey Bryant as tongue-tied Willard and engaging Maggie Salley as Rusty. Their relationship is sweet and comic and bright. Without them, the show would be dreary indeed.

There’s a lot of talent onstage in Theatre Buford’s "Footloose," but the talent doesn’t translate into theatrical magic. Latrice Pace and Stephanie Zandra, so good in Actor’s Express’ "The Color Purple," barely make an impression in "Footloose." Joseph Pendergrast and Anthony Campbell are given chances to show off some of their impressive dance moves, but that just underlines the fact that the show seems to really come to life only in the choreography.

Theatre Buford’s productions are attracting first-rate Atlanta actors, but so far haven’t been showing them off to advantage. Sets have been disappointing, particularly in comparison to Gypsy Theatre Company’s stylish designs in the same space, and the company doesn’t seem yet to have hit its stride. "Footloose" is just another example of this. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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