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Footloose

A joyful cast reminds us once again that sometimes you just gotta dance

Reviewed by Elizabeth Cobbe, Fri., July 22, 2011

Arts Review

Footloose

Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theater, 2206 Wiiliam Barton Dr.

www.zilker.org

Through Aug. 13

Running time: 2 hr., 30 min.

Sometimes in my house we like to stream movies on a weeknight, films that rate maybe three stars tops. You know at the outset that it ain't great art, but heck, it's still fun. That's what Footloose is like.

Zilker Theatre Productions has mounted the chipper little musical about Ren McCormack (Andrew Cannata), a high school kid exiled from Chicago by his parents' divorce. Ren is unhappy about the move to small town Bomont, but he tries to make the best of it. His spirits are dashed when he toe-taps his way into the most depressing rule of all: a law against dancing in Bomont. Absolutely no dancing, whatsoever. What's a kid to do? Soon he goes head-to-head with the Rev. Shaw Moore (Scott Shipman), the town's de facto mayor who refuses to budge when it comes to things like rock & roll.

Eminently predictable yet charming in spite of itself, Footloose is a story of youth triumphant. With Ren at their lead, these crazy kids decide it's finally time to challenge the status quo, and in the process, they teach their elders a valuable lesson.

Fortunately, director Michael McKelvey has gathered a decent cast with strong leads. Mandy Hunt performs sweet and nuanced solos as love interest Ariel Moore, and as goofball sidekick Willard Hewitt, Leslie Hethcox takes advantage of a great comic role to add a little lovability to the show. Cannata is among the cast's strongest actors and singers, and he imbues his songs with not just accuracy but real character as well. He also avoids the off notes that occasionally plague other performers from time to time.

Costumes by Jillian Hanel will be a treat for anyone who's still excited about the Eighties fashion revival. (To my mind, rompers should never have returned to the light of day, but I guess some people like their clothing in one piece.) The choreography from Danny Herman and Rocker Verastique may not score high on the originality meter, but it is entirely fun and well-performed.

What Footloose offers is an opportunity to spend an evening forgetting about the price of gas and such in favor of a sweet and straightforward story about kids striving to establish their identity. Their well-meaning but repressive parents try to keep them cloistered and under curfew, but the irrepressible joy of being young can't be kept down forever. The truth is that sometimes, you just gotta dance.

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