Maine State Music Theatre is closing out its summer by cutting loose with “Footloose.”
It’s a high-energy production that allows the cast to not only “kick off the Sunday shoes” but also delve into the rarely explored emotional aspects of the story.
“Footloose” is about Ren McCormack, a free-spirited teen, played by Eric Sciotto, whose outlet for self-expression is dancing. After Ren’s father abandons him and his mom Ethel, played by Charis Leos, they move from Chicago to podunk Bomont, Texas, where dancing has been outlawed ever since four teenagers died driving home after a dance.
Sciotto comes with an impressive Broadway resume that includes “Annie Get Your Gun” with Bernadette Peters and “Edwin Drood” with Chita Rivera. He is by no means 18, but the exuberant actor pulls off the role of Ren with great flare. He buzzes with vitality, capturing the pent-up energy and sarcasm of a teenager to a T. And when he dances, he’s ageless.
He is well paired with the gutsy, sassy Leos, a Maine State Music Theatre favorite who has a knack for winning over audiences with an irresistible combination of heart and humor.
Kristen Martin is a spitfire as Ren’s love interest, Ariel Moore. The petite blonde commands the stage on “Holding Out for a Hero,” powerfully belting out the number into a mustard bottle from atop a diner table. Cary Michelle Miller, Sarah Marie Jenkins and Zoe Raphael provide the perfect backing as her friends, Rusty, Wendy Jo and Urleen.
Sciotto and Martin have good on-stage chemistry that stands out on the beautifully harmonized “Almost Paradise,” sung from atop a water tower.
Director Patti Colombo’s choreography is a testament to agility and endurance on such full-throttle dance numbers as “Footloose” and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” And the cast’s energy level never visibly falters or wanes.
Colombo also cleverly incorporates props to add even more pizzazz. In “Mama Says,” Willard Hewitt, played by Timothy Hughes, and the boys dance with a dress mannequin that marvelously takes on a life of its own as it spins across the stage. It’s a show stealer, but the 6-foot-6 Hughes more than holds his own, delivering rich vocals and humor.
“Footloose” is without a doubt a dancing delight, driven by a beautifully executed score. But Colombo’s rendition offers a good amount of heart to complement the humor and energy of the ’80s dance extravaganza.
David Ruprecht and Heidi Kettenring bring depth to the story as Ariel’s parents, Rev. Shaw and Vi Moore. Their characters’ pain over losing their son in the infamous car crash is strongly felt by the audience as it drives a wedge between them and alienates their daughter. The audience also feels Ren and Ethel’s anguish over starting a new life in a town where they’re not accepted.
Sciotto and Ruprecht deliver a moving performance of “I’m Free/Heaven Help Me/On a Sunday.” And, Kettenring, Leos and Martin deliver a gorgeous performance of “Learning to Be Silent.” The three women are vocally and emotionally powerful.
“Footloose” is packed with 27 amazing singers and dancers who each deserve mention for their breathtaking performances. These include Will Ray as town bad-boy Chuck Cranston; Jim Ruttman and Lori Eure as town board members Wes and Lulu Warnicker; David Girolmo as Coach Dunbar; and Eric Shorey as Cowboy Bob. This year’s eight performance interns also merit special mention for delivering high-end performances.
“Footloose” is a high-spirited show that will make you feel like cutting loose as the cast members dance down the aisles in the show-stopping finale. And with the extra depth, it’s also a rewarding production.
April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at: