Review by Danny Gaisin
“Where the Hell is Bomont?” is the opening bit of dialogue, and truth be known; it’s actually @ 34°- 57’ N & 97°-23’W. The place is really Elmore City, OK where in 1898 a local bylaw was passed outlawing dancing and only rescinded in 1986. Multi-talented Dean Pitchford took the story and turned it into both a movie and stage play, gleaning both an Oscar™ and Golden Globe™. Sheridan’s David Connolly has taken this ‘period piece’ (re: Joel Cumber -asst. director) and utilized it as a showcase vehicle for the faculty’s undergrads’ abilities. Acting, singing and dance are all role requisites. The entire cast has all three…in spades.
The plotline is thin and borrows concept from such icons as Inge’s “Picnic”, or the Casey/Jacobs effort “Grease” which joins teenaged angst with a distracting newcomer or resident ‘bad boy’. Connolly and his cast bring such energy, enthusiasm and fervency to the stage that if it could be harnessed, would illuminate all of York Region. The director has also taken responsibility for choreographing Footloose and his (and their) chorus numbers are worth the admission price alone!
Both lead actors are awesome. Whether in group numbers, duets or solo moments, Drew Plummer and Madelyn Kriese exhibit thespian talent. Plummer’s “Ren” just slightly misses projecting ‘cool’ by failing to demonstrate the James Dean-ish silent & distant stillness; but that could be a directorial flaw. His character still comes across as magnetic and definitively ‘Alpha dog’ personality. Kriese as ‘Ariel’ has that ‘something special’ that is usually referred to as star quality and she demonstrates passion in all three thespian spheres.
There are some noticeable and strong support roles. ‘Willard’ who is the sidekick to Plummer’s “Ren” is portrayed by Mitch Wood and his instructive dance bit will reverberate with anyone who has those infamous ‘Two Left Feet’! His parental paean-” Mama Says”, albeit done for comedy relief is also a standout moment. His love interest is ‘Rusty’ and Polly Summerhayes brings a Marilyn Monroe roguishness and bombshell to her character. With the right vehicle, this lady could steal any musical comedy role. There is a ‘Fonzie’ character who has everything but an on-stage motorcycle and as interpreted by Seth Johnson, one kind of expects him to turn on the jukebox with a quick jab. His early ‘The Girl Gets around’ with his own sidekicks is a must be included number if Sheridan ever decides to make a CD of this play.
The antihero of the work is the local parson who is also Ariel’s father. Dave Comeau manages to interpret the character as sympathetic by emphasizing the rationale for his antipathy. His soliloquy number ‘Heaven Help Me’ is emotional and sung as though he was viscerally feeling a parental pain. This scribe also kept noticing the above-quoted Joel Cumber whose ‘Jeter” along with Joshua Warren & Reid McTavish were full-measure support folk. Seemed odd seeing Cumber with those donkey ears.
Connolly’s choreography has some dazzling showstoppers. The opening ‘Footloose’ intro; and the Act I ending ‘I’m Free’ with the latter’s incredible acrobatics. Post interval, there is the familiar ‘Let’s Hear It for the Boy’ whose interpretation and melody are contagious. He has also has given the powerful duet by Ren & Ariel titled ‘Almost Paradise’, such subtlety yet clout that it is almost operatic in impact.
The lighting and sound are as faultless as one expects from Sheridan. Anthony Bastianon’s five-piece orchestra is flawless and sufficiently muted as to never overpower those on stage. Costumes and set décor are professional grade. FOOTLOOSE is on-stage until Feb. 26th.
Last year Sheridan gleaned a ‘Hat Trick’ from this paper’s TOP TEN 2016. Looks like they intend to equal or surpass that accomplishment