Cut Loose With ACT Windsor’s Presentation of Footloose at The Capitol Theatre

FootlooseMusical theatre lovers are cutting loose across Windsor this month. The Arts Collective Theatre (ACT) presentation of Footloose: The Musical opened this weekend to a rather large standing ovation at The Capitol Theatre.

Based on the hit 1984 Kevin Bacon movie of the same name, Footloose is the story of Ren McCormack, a teenage boy from Chicago. He and his mother move to the small town of Bomont after his father abandons them. Upon arriving, Ren finds himself at odds with most of the town, including the Reverend Shaw Moore. The Reverend has convinced the town to outlaw dancing, which Ren finds unbelievable. With the help of the Ariel (the Reverend’s daughter) and Willard (a country hick who becomes his best friend), Ren convinces the Reverend to let the teenagers dance, and in the process helps the town to heal from a tragedy that affected them all.

As part of its annual eight-week intensive 30-Under-30 project led by Director Chris Rabideau, the entire production is created in eight weeks over the summer and then staged in a full production at The Capitol Theatre for a few weekends. ACT relies heavily on its highly skilled mentors – Leslie McCurdy (technical dancing), Valene Daniel (musical direction), Valentine Yaghoubzadeh (costume design), and Moya McAlister (marketing, publicity etc) to get the job done.

Windsor residents have seen some great productions from this format in the past, like the incredible runs of Dreamgirls and Hair in past years. Footloose is comparable in many ways to those. The dancing was exceptional, the costumes were as expected from a 1980s tale, the lighting was flashy and the actors told the story with an enthusiastic exuberance. This is why Windsor loves ACT. There’s a certain level of performance that’s guaranteed each time they hit the stage, regardless of the actual show itself.

However, at times, mostly in the opening half, Footloose felt hard to invest deeply into. With the exception of the familiar songs borrowed from the original film, some incredible singing, and Jolie Katembo’s high-octane, choreographed production numbers, the story and flow felt a tad underwhelming here and there. Still, the opening night crowd roared their approval – as they should.

Everyone involved in crafting this production deserves accolades for their hard work. Floyd Nolan-Ducedre gave the show a much more unruly and dangerous Ren, which was matched nicely with Gillian Marshall’s rebellious preacher’s daughter. One of the highlight’s was their take on the touching Almost Paradise from the original soundtrack, where they performed together high in the scaffolding. George Kelso borrowed a bit more from Dennis Quaid’s version of Reverend Shaw Moore (from the 2011 movie remake) than he did John Lithgow’s 1984 version and it helped modernize the old school biblical approach. The large ensemble looked and sounded amazing when they were on stage together – those musical numbers were captivating.

The absolute hit of the show are the performances of Lily Cecile and Kyle Cloutier as Rusty and Willard.  Cecile is a phenomenal vocalist and blended well with Cloutier’s simple-minded Gomer Pyle-esk Willard. Cloutier was a little over-the-top, but that made his character all that more enjoyable to watch.

Much like they’ve done with some shows in the past, ACT built Footloose with a multi-tiered stage built of scaffolding and movable stairs, giving a big impact to the dance and choreography routines. This allowed a lot of freedom and movement as the cast told the story.

It’s a big cast, a big musical, and, despite the minor flaws it may have, it’s a worthy night out with some of the best songs of the 80s – Holding Out For A Hero, I’m Free, Let’s Hear It For The Boy and the epic title track Footloose.

Check it out while you still can because Dancing Is Not A Crime. Footloose runs at The Capitol Theatre iN Windsor for three more shows – Friday, Sept. 13 and Saturday, Sept. 14 at 8pm, and Sunday, Sept. 15 at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.capitoltheatrewindsor.ca/events/.

Photo: Footloose by Rene Tremblay