by Terrance Mc Arthur
Come with me, back to the blissful eighties, when Kevin Bacon was cool enough to overturn a theocracy and bring dance back to the children—It’s the stage musical of Footloose, the Good Company Players production on the Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre stage until January 13.
Peppy teenager Ren (Alex Figueroa) and his mom (Melanie Heyl) move from Chicago to a little town dominated by a grief-stricken minister (Greg Ruud), who blames rock music and dancing for the evils of society, and has passed a ban on the terpsichorean arts. Ren is attracted to Ariel (Alli Stemple), the rebellious daughter of…the anti-dance preacher. Ren’s best friend (Jacob Cozzi) never learned to dance, and Ariel’s best friend (Aubree Facio) is a major motormouth. Throw in Ariel’s sleazy ought-to-be-ex-boyfriend (Shawn Williams) and you have a plot, subplots, and all the complications you can handle. With Elizabeth Fiester directing, you know the show will be brisk and fun.
Figueroa has a fresh-scrubbed look, despite the leather jacket, but he has a winning smile and handles the anger and frustration of the character well. Stemple portrays the girl-next-door type…if the girl next door happens to be a drinking teen who lies to her parents and does things to horrify her minister father.
Cozzi has the good-ol’-teen style down pat, and his transformation from “can’t dance” to “watch me now” is a highlight. Facio’s fast-talking chick is a hoot in the role played on film by Sarah Jessica Parker, and she belts out “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” with energy and power. Ruud brings the conflict and sorrow of the flock’s shepherd into sharp focus; he’s sympathetic, even if his actions are oppressive and intolerant. Ashley Wilkinson provides strong support and counterpoint to Ruud as his wife, who doesn’t always agree with the man she loves.
Charles Rabb gets to be stuck-up and annoying as the husband of Ren’s aunt, who gives the Chicago refugees a place to stay. Nia Luchau gets two opportunities to shine: the burger-joint owner with an overfluffed outfit and a down-to-earth attitude, and a country bar’s singer who makes you listen.
Shawn Williams is the boyfriend from Heck whose hair rides the line between 50s grease ball and Jheri Curl, an interesting departure from his usual sweet style. Wilkinson’s choreography is fresh and energetic. Ginger Kay Lewis-Reed’s costumes evoke the 80’s and manage to flatter the wearers.
Adapted from Dean Pitchford’s screenplay by Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, the script is usually faithful to the original (No chicken-racing tractors, here). The best-loved songs from the soundtrack are here, along with additional music by Tom Snow and Pitchford’s lyrics. It’s good, semi-retro fun, and you’ll be tempted to bust a few moves on the way out of Roger Rocka’s.
Footloose plays at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon, in Fresno. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at (559) 266-9494.
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