Last week’s performances of the Broadway musical Footloose at the Granada reminded Santa Barbarans what dance is all about. Adapted for the stage in 1998 from the 1984 movie of the same name, Footloose featured a 23-person cast from Prather Entertainment Group. The cast sang catchy ‘80s tunes and performed rowdy dance numbers that had the audience cheering and whistling.
In the first act, we meet Ren McCormack, played by Erik Keiser, a city kid from Chicago whose mother decides to move the family to Bowmont, a Midwestern town in the middle of nowhere where Reverend Shaw Moore’s word is law, and dancing is illegal. The opening number, “Footloose,” got the show started with a bang-the flashing lights and high-energy dance moves contrasted sharply with the next scene, in which Ren and his mother join the Bowmont folk in church. It isn’t long before Ren falls for the preacher’s daughter, Ariel Moore, played by Lindsay Luppino. Keiser and Luppino sang beautifully, even if they were a bit lacking in dance moves; but they had a whole cast of supporting characters who performed flips and tricks, dancing their hearts out.
A highlight from the first act was the scene at the Burger Blast diner, a high school hangout where Ariel and her three sidekicks-Kara Guy as Rusty, Mary-Elizabeth Milton as Urleen, and Sara Catherine Barnes as Wendy Jo-discuss boys and perform the classic “Holding Out for a Hero.” Barnes’s quirky portrayal of Wendy Jo elicited laughter from the audience on more than one occasion. The first act ended with an ensemble piece (“I’m Free”) after Ren suggested that Bowmont High fight to reverse the preacher’s ban on dancing.
The second act opens at a country Western dance hall, with a great scene in which Ren is amazed to discover his friend Willard Hewitt doesn’t know how to dance. A dance lesson of sorts ensues, with the cowboys trying their best to teach Willard, portrayed by Michael Kennan Miller. Willard starts out awkwardly copying everybody else’s boot-stomping moves, but by the end, he is performing flips off the dance hall’s bar. The theater burst into applause at the kiss that ends the scene.
Eventually, Ren is able to convince the Bowmont town council that dancing is not a sin. The audience may be inclined to think Footloose‘s corny plot is a sin, but by the end of this production, they knew for sure that its dancing was not. For those who missed the run at the Granada, there will be another opportunity to see this production this week in Thousand Oaks.