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Cutting (Foot)loose in St. Jacobs

Twenty local dancers, the Footloose Youth Ensemble, join the professional cast in the musical production. Back row: Amber Boswell, Hope Stemmler, Emma Ernst, Jessica Chanyi, Violet Vaughn. Middle row: Dawson Collier, Kaleigh Murphy, Mason Elliott, Taryn Meyer, Amanda Nickless, Kelsi Knowles, Kira Hatashita, Michael Carvalho, Monika Plauszta, Travis Brooks. Front row: Payton Wentzlaff, Celeste Laube, Terese Dimeck, Emma Wolle, Sarah Gomes. The principles include Colin Sheen as Ren and Julia McLellan as Ariel. [Submitted]

Judging by ticket sales – more than 95 per cent pre-sold, leading to an extension of the show’s run – there are plenty of people ready to kick off their Sunday shoes and cut loose. Footloose, that is, the latest Drayton Entertainment production that opens Wednesday in St. Jacobs.

Twenty local dancers, the Footloose Youth Ensemble, join the professional cast in the musical production. Back row: Amber Boswell, Hope Stemmler, Emma Ernst, Jessica Chanyi, Violet Vaughn. Middle row: Dawson Collier, Kaleigh Murphy, Mason Elliott, Taryn Meyer, Amanda Nickless, Kelsi Knowles, Kira Hatashita, Michael Carvalho, Monika Plauszta, Travis Brooks. Front row: Payton Wentzlaff, Celeste Laube, Terese Dimeck, Emma Wolle, Sarah Gomes. The principles include Colin Sheen as Ren and Julia McLellan as Ariel.[Submitted]
Twenty local dancers, the Footloose Youth Ensemble, join the professional cast in the musical production. Back row: Amber Boswell, Hope Stemmler, Emma Ernst, Jessica Chanyi, Violet Vaughn. Middle row: Dawson Collier, Kaleigh Murphy, Mason Elliott, Taryn Meyer, Amanda Nickless, Kelsi Knowles, Kira Hatashita, Michael Carvalho, Monika Plauszta, Travis Brooks. Front row: Payton Wentzlaff, Celeste Laube, Terese Dimeck, Emma Wolle, Sarah Gomes. [Submitted]
Perhaps it’s the ’80s nostalgia or the familiar soundtrack that ticket buyers are looking for. Or the universal themes of teen angst and rebellion. Or the chance to see a stage musical of a hit movie celebrating its 30th anniversary – you can bet that at least one person in the audience will still have a well-worn VHS copy. Probably, the appeal is all of the above.

Based on 1984’s hit movie, the story was adapted to a Broadway musical during the late ’90s.

As with the movie, Footloose the musical tells the tale of Ren (the role that propelled Kevin Bacon’s career), a big-city teen who lands in a small, rural community where dancing and rock music has been banned due to a tragedy. The classic rebel-without-a-cause story ensues as he attempts to fight the system, embodied by the Rev. Shaw Moore, and to win the heart of … wait for it … the preacher’s daughter, Ariel. Frustrated by his strict new environment, Ren decides to take on the town and throw a dance – igniting a revolution amongst his classmates … and singing and dancing up a storm doing it.

“Anyone who’s a faithful fan of the movie is going to love the show,” says Julia McLellan, who plays the aforementioned object of Ren’s desires.

A small-town girl herself, McLellan says she can relate to Ariel.

“I grew up in a really small town in Nova Scotia. I know how tight-knit a community can be,” she says, noting that everybody knows your business. “You don’t want to be stuck in a fishbowl your whole life. You want to get out and see the world.

“I can definitely relate to that,” she says, adding with a laugh something of a caveat: “I was never quite as rebellious as she is.”

Rebellion, of course, is a fundamental part of Footloose, as the outsider leads a movement to get the community to loosen up. The story of young people coming to grips with life and finding themselves in conflict with their parents is timeless.

“It’s a universal story of coming of age. Those will always stay classics,” McLellan notes of the story’s enduring appeal.

The soundtrack, too, falls into that category, full of ’80s anthems such as “Holding Out For a Hero,” “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” “Almost Paradise” and the classic title track – everybody cut, everybody cut … to the vocal stylings of Kenny Loggins.

Along with the music come the fashions of the day, with the production being true to the time period, which may not ever be deemed classic.

“All the wardrobe will be nostalgic of that era – it’s undeniably ’80s.”

While she wasn’t around to enjoy the decade or the movie’s initial release, she’s more than familiar with the production’s setting. McLellan counts herself among the fanbase, having grown up watching the movie as a family staple.

“It was a big favourite growing up in my home,” she says, adding that she jumped at the chance to appear in a musical version. As a bonus, she gets to both sing and dance, not always an option for performers.

“Getting to sing and dance is a pretty big opportunity for an actor to do, absolutely.”

With a month-long run, she’ll have a good chance  to really grow into the role, getting to know Ariel. The character’s relationships with Ren and her family are a favourite part of the movie, McLellan explains.

“I really like the scenes where Ariel is getting to know Ren … where she lets down her guard, this wall she’s built around herself.”

McLellan and the rest of the cast will be cutting loose starting October 8. In addition to the 22 professional actors, the show will feature 20 young local dancers as part of the ensemble.

The Drayton Entertainment production of Footloose runs October 8 to November 9 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are $42 ($25 for those under 20 years of age), available online at www.stjacobscountryplayhouse.com, in person at the box office, or by calling (519) 621-8000 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).

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