THEATER REVIEW: “Footloose: The Musical” gets the toes tapping

Teenagers have lots of problems, but high schooler Ren McCormack (Anton Gero) really feels put upon. Ren’s dad has deserted the family and he and his mom Ethel (Debra Wanger) are forced to move from that toddlin’ town of Chicago all the way to the nowheresville that is Bomont, described as “a small Midwestern town” (it looks a lot like Texas).

Small isn’t the half of it. It’s also small-minded and super-religious, run by a town council whose most influential member is the stuffy Rev. Shaw Moore (Cris O’Bryon).

Ren gets the usual new kid cold-shoulder treatment, not to mention being roughed up by the local bullies. He starts to get into a dust-up with Willard (Jon Eidson), but they decide to be friends instead.

But where there’s a high school, there are bound to be girls, and sure enough, Ren sees one he likes. Trouble is, she’s taken. What’s worse, she’s Rev. Moore’s daughter Ariel (Emma Degerstedt).

What to do? Well, dance is the obvious answer, but the good pastor has seen to it that dancing in Bomont is outlawed everywhere, always, under all circumstances.

Let’s face it: kids gotta dance, no matter what any old fogeys think about it, and “Footloose” is a bopping teen-centric musical about that simple fact. The 1998 musical (based on the 1984 film) gets a sprightly production from San Diego Musical Theatre through Oct. 14 at the Birch North Park Theatre.

Director/choreographer Robert Marra keeps the pace going and the dancing jivey, musical director Don LeMaster marshals the orchestral forces expertly and the cast is full of winning performances, individual and collective. The music by Tom Snow and lyrics by stage adapter Dean Pitchford are mostly bouncy and fun and always appropriate.

Fero’s Ren is terrific – a handsome young man and fine dancer with a great voice and the acting chops to pull this off. Degerstedt’s Ariel is a perfect foil – pretty, spunky, bright, exactly the kind of girl most any dad would be proud to call his daughter and any guy with sense would pursue.

Cris O’Bryon’s fine voice and acting makes the villain’s part palatable, and the character of Rev. Moore even a bit of a sympathetic character. Laura Dickinson is excellent as Moore’s wife Vi and especially fine in the affecting “Learning To Be Silent” trio.

“Footloose” is about dance, but it’s also about the conflict between wanting to fit in and the desire to change an intolerable situation. Ren wants to put a little fun back into being a teen; Vi wants Moore to develop a little more tolerance so they can get more fun back into their marriage.

This large, talented cast makes the two and a half hour running time fly (and dance) by.

The details

“Footloose” plays through Oct. 14 at Birch North Park Theatre,
2891 University Ave. in North Park.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

For tickets, call 858-560-5740 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.