Footloose Review – Let’s Dance

Nico Fisher and Carter Santos (Center) and cast in FOOTLOOSE - Photo by Joel Castro
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Initially released as a film in 1984, FOOTLOOSE starred Kevin Bacon John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Loosely based on the town of Elmore City, Oklahoma, FOOTLOOSE told the tale of a town which banned dancing in 1898 to decrease heavy drinking. The story became national news when Elmore High School’s junior class requested the first ever prom in 1980 – a request that was approved in a close vote by the school board. The film received mixed reviews – but it was a huge box office success. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an average rating (5.8/10) and remarked that “FOOTLOOSE is a nice hunk of teenage cheese.” In 1998, a musical based on the film came to Broadway, receiving mixed reviews but four Tony Award nominations. In 2024, the Morgan-Wixson Theatre proudly presents FOOTLOOSE.

Carter Santos and Steven Didrick (foreground) and cast- Photo by Joel Castro

The time is the late 1990s, and the place is Chicago (for a few minutes) and the town of Bomont. Ren McCormack (Carter Santos) is just an average big city teen who enjoys dancing the night away in Chicago. When his father takes off for parts unknown, leaving him and his mother Ethel (Lauren Magness) behind, the two must relocate to Bomont, a small town at the end of nowhere when Ren’s aunt offers them a place to stay. Imagine Ren’s surprise when very conservative Bomont Minister Shaw Moore (Steven Didrick) blasts rock and roll as evil, “an endless chant of pornography.” It seems that four teens died in an auto accident returning from a dance – and one of the kids was the Reverend’s son. The Reverend Shaw is convinced that dance was the cause of the catastrophe and uses his considerable small-town political influence to have dancing declared illegal. Even with encouragement from his wife Vi (Sarah Marie), the Reverend can’t seem to bend from his conviction that dancing is the root of all evil. Leave it to Ren to shake up the town and everyone in it as he spearheads questions that haven’t ever been asked before. Meanwhile, Ren discovers the preacher’s daughter Ariel (Nico Fisher), a feisty and very pretty young lady; and the two plot and plan how to get pop to change his mind.

Carter Santos and Nico Fisher – Photo by Joel Castro

From the stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, skilled director/choreographer/ costumer Niko Montelibano has assembled a very talented and diverse cast and production team. To quote Montelibano, “Not only is FOOTLOOSE about an outsider moving to a small town dealing with oppressive laws and a community trying to fight back for their rights, Bomont is a heartbroken town that’s doing its best to heal – and one man’s healing may actually cause harm to others.”

Steven Didrick (center) and FOOTLOOSE ensemble cast – Photo by Joel Castro

FOOTLOOSE is an energetic dance-‘til-you-drop production about a bunch of frustrated high schoolers who need to find their beat. The principals sing – each blessed with a magnificent set of lungs – and even dance in some very complex group numbers – in this tale inspired by real life. Special kudos to Carter Santos for his brilliant job of breathing life into Ren. And congratulations for casting the bevy of teenagers with actors who are probably teenagers – or close to – themselves. There is nothing to compete with kids having the time of their lives.

FOOTLOOSE ensemble cast – Photo by Joel Castro

Kudos also to the production team. Justin Kelley-Cahill’s scenic design and Melodie S. Rivers’ scenic artistry are tops, and Cici Mao’s lighting and Chris Morrison’s and Emily OckoMichalak’s sound can’t be beat. The audience will have trouble keeping those dancing feet still as more than a dozen exciting songs tell the story. So put on your dancing shoes and get ready to join the rebellious high schoolers as they fight for the right to dance.

FOOTLOOSE cast – Photo by Joel Castro

FOOTLOOSE runs through July 28, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Morgan-Wixson Theatre is located at 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405. Tickets are $32 (seniors and military $28; students $25; group rates available). For information and reservations, call 310-838-7519 or go online.


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