It’s hard to believe that the original movie Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon, will be 40 years old next year, and perhaps even more difficult to grasp that the stage musical version had its Broadway premiere a quarter-century ago. (Fun fact: New Paltz-based actor/playwright Adam LeFevre debuted the stage role of Uncle Wes in that 1998 production.) There’s something about this tale of teenagers forbidden to dance by an uptight country preacher that keeps resonating with young people, generation after generation. And with its references to book-burning, the relevance of the narrative sadly never seems to fade away into quaint bygone Americana.
“There’s some real meat to it,” says Nancy Owen, director of the Drama Club at New Paltz High School, who will revive Footloose the Musical from March 23 to 25. This is the first time since Newsies in 2019 that the spring musical at NPHS will be able to proceed normally: The Secret Garden was canceled with the onset of COVID in 2020; the 2021 production of Into the Woods was performed in masks and required players to kiss through a sheet of plexiglass and toss a doll representing a live baby around. Last spring’s The Theory of Relativity, though barrier-free, was a loosely aggregated series of two-character scenes and songs.
Needless to say, the student actors, singers and dancers are thrilled that they’ll finally be able to put on a full-scale musical again, and Owen has great confidence in her cast of 38 players. “The kids are very aware of how good it feels to be doing a normal show and not wear masks,” she says. “This cast, they’re all really talented and hardworking. It’s a dedicated group… We do have some really good dancers!”
That’s an important factor in putting on a play whose entire plot revolves around what happens when the natural exuberance of teenagers is repressed, along with communication between generations. There are 18 songs in Footloose the Musical, mostly with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, who wrote the stage adaptation (with Walter Bobbie) of his own screenplay for the 1984 movie. Additional songs were contributed by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman and of course Kenny Loggins, who wrote the irresistible title number. And show-stopping dance numbers are the heart and soul of this play.
For this production, Ryan Hyland plays the protagonist Ren McCormack, a big-city boy who has relocated to a backwater town with his mother after his father abandoned them. Jenna Triguero plays Ariel Moore, the rebellious daughter of Reverend Moore, who is portrayed by Nicholas Kutzin. Marla May Feeney plays the minister’s wife Vi Moore. J. P. Fabella portrays Ren’s sidekick Willard and Lindsey Clinton is Ariel’s best friend Rusty.
The choreography for this production is a collaborative effort of Kate Weston and Caleb Sheedy, a NPHS Drama Club veteran who recently got a theater degree from Syracuse University. Nicole Foti is the musical director. Katelyn Coffey is in charge of costumes and Nancy Owen directs.
Footloose the Musical will be performed in the Otto Grassel Auditorium at New Paltz High School at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 23 to 25, plus a 2 p.m. matinée on Saturday. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors and can be reserved online at www.showtix4u.com/event-details/72174. NPHS is located at 130 South Putt Corners Road. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/events/875128386907291/8751-28396907290.