Footloose – Upper Darby High School

Footloose - Upper Darby 1

Footloose by Upper Darby High School in Drexel Hill, PA

March 11, 2020

Review submitted by Meg Matsukawa of Academy of the New Church

“There’s a time for everything under heaven… a time to mourn and a time to dance,” and what a time the cast and crew of Upper Darby High School’s production of Footloose gave us!

Based off of the 1984 movie of the same name, Footloose premiered on Broadway in 1998, where it ran for two years. The story follows Ren McCormack who left Chicago with his mother in the hopes of leaving behind their broken home, only to wind up in a town just as broken as their family. Upper Darby High School’s production of Footloose brought to life Ren’s fight to bring joy back to Beaumont.

With impressive choreography and undeniably talented vocalists, the production of Footloose was tied together by the energetic joy of the cast. The ensemble executed difficult dance steps with ease, making it seem impossible for dancing to be outlawed in a place with as much talent as the town of Beaumont appeared to have. From high energy dance numbers to slow soliloquies, the cast of Footloose was able to keep the audience spellbound throughout the entire show.

Anthony Flamminio pulled the audience into Ren McCormack’s struggle to bring happiness back to Beaumont with his acting ability while lighting up the stage with his incredible dancing and powerful voice. Genevieve Bruce played the angry, sad, yet somehow hopeful Ariel Moore, the fierce determination to leave the prison of her hometown evident in her emotional interpretation of the preacher’s rebellious daughter.

Emma Speck dazzled the stage with her impressive vocal range and dancing ability in her role as the sweet and sassy Rusty. Speck raised the roof with her rendition of “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” and left the audience stunned with breathtaking harmonies in “Somebody’s Eyes,” along with the incredible vocals of Audrey Shaw and Bene Green. Kenneth Bruce and Rachel Hauben heartbreakingly captured the pain of losing a son and the fear of losing a daughter in their impressive and beautiful portrayals of Reverend Shaw and his wife Vi.

John Troy’s complex lighting design aided the flow of the show, while the cast and crew were able to move the sets swiftly and with ease. The orchestra was able to both beautifully support the vocal parts and hold their own when playing over scene transitions. And, although a few microphone cues were missed, the sound crew managed the difficulty of navigating wireless mics with professionalism.

Upper Darby High School’s production of Footloose filled the theater with joyful dancing and incomparable vocals, a performance that was truly “almost paradise.”

 

Review submitted by Aurelle Odhner of Academy of the New Church

“He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast, and he’s gotta be larger than life!” The bar is high for heroes in Beaumont, but luckily the students at Upper Darby High School came to the rescue, exceeding equally high expectations with their performance of Footloose.

Born as a film in 1984, Footloose was adapted for the stage and made its way to Broadway in 1998. This upbeat show follows Ren, a Chicago teen who relishes living freely and dancing his heart out as he moves with his mother to the tiny town of Beaumont to start a new life. However, his new ideas and restless feet quickly stir up trouble in a place where everybody knows everybody and old memories linger for years. Eventually, with the help of strong friendships, the youth of Beaumont come together to defend their freedom to dance, and to show their town how to take a closer look at the things and people they had deemed dangerous.

The cast of Upper Darby High School filled the stage with explosive energy, singing and dancing with total freedom. The performers capably carried the show through moments of elated excitement, but also brought powerful emotional impact to more sobering scenes. The characters and relationships they created on stage were as richly real as their authentic love of dancing.

Anthony Flamminio led the cast as Ren, expressing all the frustration of a misjudged teenager and showing off his smooth moves while he belted for the whole world to hear. Genevieve Bruce played the coy preacher’s daughter, Ariel, and drew the eyes of the audience on the dance floor as easily as she attracted the attention of the boys in her small town. Her father Reverend Shaw, played by Kenneth Bruce, was a pillar of righteousness and created a strong, dynamic character to pit the plot against.

The talented supporting cast included performers such as Emma Speck, whose show-stopping vocals made her performance of Rusty a highlight of the show. Rachel Hauben gave a heart-wrenching performance as Vi, demonstrating her ability to act even when she was seen and not heard, while Myles Knight joined a hillbilly attitude with youthful energy to portray the loyal friend, Willard.

The student orchestra matched the energy of the performers throughout the show. A simple, efficiently moved set left more room for dancing while well-designed lighting created unique spaces on stage and effectively directed the audience’s attention.

The students at Upper Darby High School gave their hearts to this liberating production, proving that “If there’s anything worth our love it’s worth a fight.”

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