Eleven Charlotte-area high school students are competing in the new theater criticism category of the Blumey Awards, the Blumenthal Performing Arts’ annual musical theater awards program (read more about that here.) Each student writes three reviews; the following is one entry:
Independence High School added the emotion to “Footloose” that Hollywood never could in their 7:00 p.m. performance on Feb. 9. Minimal props and costuming let the storyline’s raw emotion sparkle through, taking away the unnecessary glitziness that follows popular Hollywood movies. I knew there was going to be music, singing and a little country twang, but I never expected to experience “Footloose” on such an emotional level.
As the story goes, Ren McCormack (played by Collin Schmaldinst) moves from Chicago to a tiny Western town where he is shocked by a ban on dancing. When he meets Ariel Moore (Brenee Goforth), Reverend Moore’s (Garnet Edwards) beautiful and rebellious daughter, Ren finds that he is not the only one who wants the ban on dancing overturned. In the end, Ariel and the town’s teenagers help Ren convince the devout Reverend and other adult townspeople that dancing doesn’t mean drugs, alcohol and sex.
Brenee Goforth was a fabulous choice for Ariel, the stubborn Reverend’s daughter. Apart from exuding confidence on stage, Goforth sang beautifully and expressed the tormented apathy of the teenage years expertly. In comparison, Schmaldinst was acceptable but seemed a little tentative next to Goforth. Marshall Hildebrand’s comedy skills as Willard Hewitt, the short-tempered farm boy, were magnificent. Although I believe that Hildebrand could have played the lead well, his role fit him. The actress who really blew me away, though, was Veronica Rice as Vi Moore, the Reverend’s wife. Some of the most poignant scenes in the entire play featured Rice’s incredible vocal skills as she played Vi Moore with sweetness and compassion.
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Members of Independence High School’s band played all the music throughout “Footloose.” It complimented the emotion of the show well, sometimes even making up for the occasional awkwardness of the actors on stage. The liveliness and expressiveness of the musicians were tremendous, though, at times, the music was too loud to hear the actor’s dialogue and singing. Independence High School band members were a dynamic addition to “Footloose,” and the school should be proud of the talents of their band members.
“Footloose” was a great choice for a high school play considering that the issues represented are still relevant to high school students today. Although local high school students are not fighting the town council for the ability to dance, students are still struggling to find how they fit into their community’s ideas on religion, relationships and family issues. This perspective of “Footloose,” for me, was not evident in its Hollywood form. Maybe it was the fact that the actors in Independence High School’s portrayal did not have perfect skin and did not look like they were 25 years old; maybe watching “Footloose” on the stage of a local high school changed my perception of the show’s story. No matter the reason, Independence High School intensified the amount of emotion that I thought was possible for such a well-known story. These high school students really made the show their own.