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Friday, May 6, 2016

'Footloose' is fun retro frolic

Thursday, February 18, 2010

(Courtesy of Beef and Boards)d
INDIANAPOLIS -- Any self-respecting child of the 80s is familiar with the plot of the 1984 motion picture "Footloose."

We know the story of Ren McCormack, the hip Chicago kid who is transplanted to the tiny town of Bomont -- where the Rev. Shaw Moore dictates all the rules and where dancing is strictly forbidden.

I went to the theater with my mom to see "Footloose" when I was 14. From the first time I saw Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, Sarah Jessica Parker and Christopher Penn burn up the dance floor with their funky moves, the film has been on my Top 10 of All Time list.

The first performance of the stage musical adaptation of "Footloose" took place in 1998. I'd always kind of wanted to see it, but I was afraid there was no way it could measure up to the movie.

After all, how in the world would you recreate the scene where Kevin Bacon and the town bad guy played chicken with tractors?

I finally gave in and went to see "Footloose" at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre in Indianapolis this past weekend.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Most of the songs from the movie found their way into the musical, including "Footloose" and "I'm Free," both originally performed by Kenny Loggins; "The Girl Gets Around," originally performed by Sammy Hagar; "Somebody's Eyes," originally performed by Karla Bonofff; "Holding Out for a Hero," originally performed by Bonnie Tyler; "Let's Hear it For the Boy," originally performed by Deniece Williams; and "Almost Paradise," originally performed by Ann Wilson of Heart and Mike Reno of Loverboy.

In the lead role of Ren, Dominic Sheahan-Stahl strikes a great balance between Ren's big-town cockiness and teenage angst. He is a fine singer, but his real strength is his dancing. He lights up the stage, and when he dances you're unable to take your eyes off him.

There was no tractor scene. In the movie, that scene was set to the driving beat of "Holding Out for a Hero." In the play, the song is sung by Rev. Moore's daughter Ariel, portrayed in the Beef & Boards production by Erin P. West.

West infuses the rebellious, misunderstood Ariel with just enough chutzpah to make her no pushover, but just enough sensitivity to keep her likable.

Like the movie, the play relies heavily on the supporting cast. In the movie, Ren's best friend Willard, a clumsy, socially inept country bumpkin, steals the show in some scenes, and the same is true in the play. Happy Mahaney is perfect in the role.

Other standouts are the three actresses who play Ariel's best girlfriends -- Amanda Lawson as Rusty (who has easily the strongest singing voice in the cast), Da'Keisha N. Brayant as Wendy Jo and Cara Noel Antosca as Urleen.

Ariel's parents, the Rev. Shaw and his wife Vi, are played by Eddie Curry and Janet Essenpreis, and they do a great job of projecting their struggles within their marriage and with regard to their headstrong daughter. Ren's mother Ethel is played by Megan McKinney, who is wonderful in the role.

Putnam County folk should keep their eyes peeled for Adam Chandler, who plays the chorus role of Lyle. Chandler is a Greencastle native and a graduate of Cascade High School.

The cast was costumed in authentic 1980s garb -- polo shirts with popped collars, t-shirts bearing Atari and Mountain Dew logos, short denim skirts with red leather boots. Someone very familiar with that time period obviously did the costumes, and it added a lot of the show.

"Footloose" runs at Beef & Boards through March 21. A combination of evening and matinee performances are scheduled. Tickets range from $35 to $58 and include a phenomenal buffet dinner.

For details on "Footloose" and other upcoming productions, visit www.beefandboards.com.

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