In 1984, teen heartthrob Kevin Bacon led a strong cast in what became one of the most successful teen musical drama films of the last half century…Footloose. With one of the most memorable title tracks of all time, the high energy flick inspired a 2011 remake, and on the weekend of April 7, the stage adaptation of the hit production was presented by the Archbold High School and the Archbold Vocal Music Department. A high energy production called for a high energy cast, crew and pit orchestra. All three were delivered, with vintage Archbold panache.
Footloose is a story about a generational gap brought about when emotional pain blocks channels of communication. After being abandoned by his father, Ren McCormack (portrayed by Alex Short), and his mother (Sara Bilen), are forced to move from Chicago to the small farming town of Bomont. Ren is prepared for the inevitable adjustment period at his new high school, but what he isn’t prepared for is the culture shock brought about by the rigorous local edicts, including the panning of rock music, and an outright ban on dancing instituted by local preacher, the Reverend Shaw Moore (Jeremiah Hartman). The laws were passed after four Bomont teenagers were killed in an automobile accident after an evening of revelry, one of whom was the son of Reverend Moore. From that point forward, Reverend Moore became determined to exercise the control over the town’s youth that he struggled to command in his own home.
Reverend Moore’s rebellious daughter, Ariel (Marin Parsley) set her sights on Ren, but her roughneck boyfriend, Chuck Cranston (Cameron Short) set about to sabotage Ren’s reputation, with many of the locals believing the worst about the new kid in town. With scriptural evidence provided by Ariel, Ren attempts to persuade the town council to rescind the law, but Reverend Moore, who holds a seat on the council, convinces his peers to reject the request. A late night visit from Ren to the Reverend brings the point across to both parties. Ren helps the Reverend realize that he is a father longing for the son he lost, and whose strictness is also driving away his daughter. At the same time, the Reverend also sees Ren as a young man aching for the father who walked out on him. At church that week, Reverend Moore mentions to the congregation Ren’s desire to have a high school dance. While the congregation expects another sermon on the evils and perils of rock music and dancing, they are stunned when he endorses Ren’s plan, bringing about an explosion of joy in the congregation not witnessed since the tragic loss of the four kids in the accident.
The closing matinee performance found the cast, crew and musicians in top form, and the ad libs coming from the cast kept everyone, including the audience on their toes. One of the most profound alterations came in the form of the understudy to Trevan Kindinger stepping forward to take the role of Ren’s somewhat redneck friend, Willard Hewitt. That understudy was no one other than Director Kent Vandock, and the life that he breathed into Willard had not only the audience laughing hysterically, but also members of the pit orchestra as well. Another outstanding ad lib came while Ariel was lamenting her father’s overreaching control to Ren. She wanted to jump a train and get as far away from her father as she could, but stated in disgust that he wanted her to go to college so that she could, “…teach English in Henry County.” She then followed up that statement by questioning if they even speak English in Henry County. Marin Parsley delivered those lines so very well, a brief pause was necessary while the audience laughed and applauded. The pause also provided time for Ren to regroup, as Alex Short was holding as straight a face as the late Harvey Korman did while working opposite Tim Conway. The audience saw that as well, bringing about even more laughter.
When the final curtain came down, the audience rose up in a lengthy standing ovation. Ticket prices were $8 and $10, but when it came to the quality of entertainment factor, the audience easily got their money’s worth…ten times over. This was one of those performances that you wish could have been saved for posterity on video, a rather popular trend for the productions of the Archbold High School Music Department. The cast, crew, musicians can be proud of this accomplishment, as can the Dynamic Duo of Direction, Kent and Danielle Vandock.
The community of Archbold can also take pride in the productions of their school. The Archbold Schools Music Department has received the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation ‘Best Communities for Music Education’ award for 2017…the fifth year in a row for the recognition. The production of Footloose was ample proof that the award was no fluke.
© 2017, Tim Kays. All rights reserved.