More than a decade since the musical originally opened on Broadway and over 25 years since the film it was based on was released, Footloose still resonates. The musical, currently playing at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, isn’t an artistic breakthrough and it isn’t the best show I expect to see all year, or even all month. It is, however, an energetic experience that’s sure to meet audience expectations for a fun night out. And beyond the expected dance show, this staging offers an additional emotional punch, underscoring the various ways we deal with heartache and the ties that bind us.
Footloose tells the story of Ren McCormack, a Chicago teen who dances his way into the small town of Bomont after his parents’ divorce. Ren is shocked to learn dancing, an outlet for his anger and pain, is illegal in the town and it becomes his mission to get the anti-dancing law revoked.
As Ren, Ben Bakken keeps the show’s momentum going, while simultaneously offering up some raw teenage angst. He’s more powerful as a dancer than a singer, which suits the role well. Having seen him perform in my own high school’s productions nearly ten years ago, Bakken is still convincing as a teen, although the same can’t be said for all of Bomont High.
|footloose, playing through july 31 at the chanhassen dinner theatres. for tickets ($45-$76) and information, see chanhassentheatres.com.|
David Anthony Brinkley portrays Reverend Shaw Moore, the town patriarch who imposed the dancing rule after his son died in a car accident returning from a dance. Brinkley has the necessary sternness for the role, but he’s also able to peel away the layers to show a father dealing with an unbearable grief. Playing his daughter, Zoe Pappas is a powerhouse singer who brings a different and necessary dynamic to each of the relationships her character is in: a bitter and hurt daughter, a rebellious teen with the bad-boy boyfriend, and an understanding counterpart to her eventual love interest, Ren. The shared experience of grief is what brings these core characters together and eventually what allows them to find an even ground on the dancing issue.
Also of note are cast members Brian Skellenger and Jodi Carmeli. Playing Ren and Ariel’s best friends, these two are free of the heavier material and run with their comedic roles. Skellenger’s awkward humor as dance-inept Willard is refreshing during a few lulls in the production. As the girl trying to catch his eye, Carmeli’s Rusty is a spunky firecracker with strong pipes to boot.
While the classic film put the emphasis on dancing, the stage show provides added entertainment with more than 15 musical numbers, including the familiar 80s songs “Holding Out for a Hero,” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” and of course the title song, which bookends the show.
This was my first experience at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, and while the sets can’t compete with those along Hennepin Avenue, they were adequate enough to convey the context of what was happening on the stage. At first, I was a bit distracted by the clinking glasses and bobbing heads, but chalked it up to the whole dinner-theater experience. Once beyond that, I was able to appreciate the vast local talent we have in the Twin Cities and the fun that is Footloose.