Review: 'Footloose' with the Mclean Community Players

Christian Jost

  • OnStage Washinton D.C./L.A. Critic

This past weekend was the opening for the Mclean Community Player’s production of Footloose; which, as many of you know, is an adaptation of the beloved 80’s teen movie of the same name. The show was adapted for the stage by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie. Original music came from Tom Snow and lyrics from Dean Pitchford. Footloose follows the story of Ren McCormack as he transitions from city life in Chicago to small town life in Bomont. Conflict arises when Ren realizes that Bomont has very strict laws against teenage activities, specifically dancing. These laws were created and are upheld by the town’s Reverend, who lost his son in a tragic accident years prior. The Reverend’s attempts to keep the town’s youth safe backfire, and it pushes his own daughter Ariel farther and farther away.

Ok, let’s move on to the topic at hand: The McLean Community Players production of Footloose, Directed and Choreographed by Shaun Patrick Moe. I'll admit that I had my reservations about seeing this show but I was excited to see what this cast would do with it. This production provided many solid performances, many from its supporting cast. Sara Talebian gave an excellent performance as Ariel’s best friend Rusty.  She gave a very honest portrayal of a confident small town girl trying to get the guy of her dreams and protect her friends. Sierra Hoffman and Tori Garcia also gave great performances as Ariel’s friends Wendy Jo and Urleen; they had great chemistry together and excelled comically and musically. Jon Simmons also stood out as Ren’s best friend Willard, he provided us with huge laughs and really won the affection of the audience. The best performance of the night was undoubtedly given by Nikkie Culbreth as Ariel. She sang beautifully, and her acting couldn’t be topped. She showed us humor, sensuality, rebellion, hatred, acceptance, and humanity in this flawless performance.  She was always in the moment, and as a result, completely stole the show. 

While Morgan DeHart had looked the part, and surely had his moments as Ren McCormack, something didn’t click.  As far as I could tell, it was inexperience that hindered DeHart. He seemed very uncomfortable and nervous on stage, speaking way too quickly and not very convincingly. That being said, it actually allowed for an interesting dynamic because Ariel became the lead character of the show, making us care about her story over all others; whether that is good or not is debatable, but it was indeed different perspective and an overall triumph for Culbreth. 

The choreography was also a triumph is this show, being just simple enough that everyone on stage could pull it off and difficult enough that the audience was impressed. The ensemble excelled at the choreography, and if they made any mistakes I sure couldn’t tell. The ensemble was what really kept this audience engaged, they all seemed to click together and made great character choices. Everything the ensemble did seemed fresh and new, like they were showing it to us for the first time. The strongest ensemble members were Franklin Williams, Michael Ferry, Megan Khaziran, and Clair Baker. The best ensemble performance and the best song in general was the classic “Holding Out for a Hero”. Of all the songs Dean Pitchford brought over from the movie, this one works the best in the Musical and this cast pulled it off flawlessly. 

The set design by Bill Brown also stood out; it managed to give us everything we needed to get lost in the scenes without having a completely cluttered stage.  Although at times some songs seemed too high for certain characters; they never let that stop them and sang their hearts outs. Praise to Music Director Lori Roddy for that and the other great music in the show. Matt Robotham also did an outstanding job on percussion for the show and that goes for the entire pit orchestra who all did great. Their were a couple sound issues but other than that the tech for this show seemed to run smoothly, kudos to the crew for that.

Despite a few of this production's setbacks, I can’t deny the fact that it is entertaining. The cast is truly having fun on stage and the audience can tell. We root for them. This show is up for two more weekends in McLean Virginia, a suburb of Washington D.C.! Tickets and info can be found here.