Review: Loudoun Centre Theatre’s 'Footloose'

Christian Jost

This past weekend I had the privilege of being invited to review the closing weekend for Loudoun Centre Theatre’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.

I, for one, was very pleased with LCT’s production. I felt the cast delivered and were able to shine, with the help of very creative staging in a smaller space. Frankie Williams (Ren) and Roan McLean (Ariel) lead the show with strong presence and professional level talent. Williams took a much more quirky approach to the character, making him well received by the audience. While Mclean played a perfect Ariel, giving heartache, sass, humor, anger, and lust, whenever called for. Both also had impressive dance moves, but Williams was second to none in that department. While at times the music was overpowering, the duo managed to be heard over the track without losing the pitch attempting to enhance volume. Someone who had no trouble being heard though was Ashley Williams, who shined as Ariel’s friend Rusty. If you want to prove to an audience that your production means business, you have A. Williams sing the first note, which LCT, thankfully, did. She blew the audience away from start to finish. Other solid performances included Seraphine Terryberry and Alyssa Vanlandingham, who played Ariel’s friends Urleen and Wendy Jo, respectfully. Further standout performers included Ryan Washington as Reverend Moore, Giovanni Brassanini as Willard, and Junita Williams, who got had a well deserved moment to shine during “Still Rockin” as Cowgirl Bobbie. Though the ensemble in this piece was small, it was not without its share of talent; most notably performances by Emma Crawford, Lily Washington, and James Sheppard.

As with all my reviews, I must point out the star of the show, which in this case is very interesting. The star of this show was, undeniable, the harmonies of Williams, Terryberry, and Vanlandingham. The three all had great vocals separately but together they were unstoppable and received applause during almost all their numbers during the harmonies.  

Jessica Siswick and Jeffrey Taylor took on many projects in this piece, including set design, lighting design, and direction. I commend the two on all their work, especially the wonderful set/scenic design. Having a permanent set for a show with so many locations would usually be a poor decision. However, they utilized the space upwards, knowing there were too many restrictions horizontally. The only rough note on the tech side of things was the first act lighting design, often having characters in darkness/shadow during scenes. However, the issues seemed to resolve themselves by act two where all characters were visible.

There were two things I wanted to talk about directionally in this review. One was the decision to go against traditional type and have Ren be played by an African-American actor, in Williams. I adored this decision and felt it added a whole new layer of depth to the show, introducing a racial tension, along with generational tension. Many of the lines regarding Ren are taken in a very different direction with a black actor in the role. Constant references to “City life”, “Street”, “Trouble making” and others during this production took on a whole new meaning, as they can have a racial prejudice to them especially when said by an almost all white town. In my opinion, this lifted the show of Footloose to another lever and I encourage other attempting to mount the show in the future to consider attempting the same casting choice.

The second thing I wanted to say that I commend these directors for showing another side of LCT, which is usually known for conservative, completely family friendly entertainment. Not to say this show was “inappropriate” but it does touch on some more adult themes of rebellion, lust, domestic violence, and death. Many things I expected to be taken out of this production were kept and that deserves immense amounts of respect.

In conclusion, this show was a very enjoyable, impressive, and talent filled experience. It included a fantastic helmed by Williams and McLean, Great direction by Siswick and Taylor, fun choreography by Jean Anne Michie (Assisted by Crawford).