'Footloose' Rocks the House

Schools and Libraries

April 23, 2013


Undeterred by setbacks caused by Superstorm Sandy, the Long Beach High School theater department was proud to present a musical production of “Footloose” on April 18-20. Although the storm delayed the opening of the show from February to April, it did not dampen the spirits of the young actors who showed amazing energy and jubilance despite the hardships many had faced in recent months. This tale of some courageous teens who revitalize the spirit of their town by rebelling against an oppressive ban against dancing provided an uplifting evening of entertainment for a community struggling to return to normalcy in the aftermath of Sandy.

As the show opens, Ren McCormack (played by Joseph Keiserman) and his mother Ethel (Kelly Vargas) are bidding farewell to their native Chicago. After Ren’s father walks out on them, they are forced to live with relatives in the town of Beaumont — a place no one in Chicago has ever heard of.

Thinking at first that he might find solace in small-town life, Ren finds himself at odds with the repressive atmosphere of the town, and especially at odds with the local minister, Reverend Moore (Russell Goetz). The good reverend, who wields considerable influence over his flock, had convinced the town to impose a ban on dancing after his own son and three other Beaumont teens were tragically killed in a car accident five years ago on their way home from a dance.

Complicating life even further for Ren is a budding relationship with Reverend Moore’s headstrong and rebellious daughter Ariel (Alexandra Brodsky). Not only does Ren’s friendship with Ariel further set the reverend against him, but it also pits him against Ariel’s rough-and-tumble boyfriend Chuck Cranston (Christian Musto), who vows to take him down.

It seems that the only friends he has made in Beaumont are Willard Hewitt (Max Tunney) and Mrs. Moore (Annie Gloeggler), who does her best to convince her husband that Ren is not the troublemaker that Reverend Moore makes him out to be.

As Ren tries to adjust to his new life in Beaumont, he becomes increasingly frustrated with the oppressive atmosphere of the town and takes Ariel, Willard and their friends to a dance hall outside of town, where they all cut loose. Inspired by the enthusiasm he has reawakened in his new friends, Ren tries to petition the town council to lift the ban on dancing, but his petition is denied.

After Ren later learns that the vote was rigged by Reverend Moore, he decides to pay the reverend a visit to try to convince him to open his heart and let go of the overshadowing pain that he has been harboring since his son’s death. After realizing how much misery he has been causing his town by holding so tightly to his own grief, the reverend finally announces that he thinks a dance might be a good idea — and “Everybody Cuts Footloose.”

Their final musical performance marked a bittersweet moment for seniors Russell and Joseph, who have been sharing the Long Beach High School stage in various roles since freshman year. This show proved to be the most dramatically challenging for both young men, as they channeled the angst and pain of loss through their characters. This was the second time that Alexandra and Christian were paired romantically on the stage, although the roles both young actors played this year were much more serious than their comedic turn in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” After delivering a standout performance in the fall production of “The Odd Couple,” Max Tunney once again showed his comedic talent in his portrayal of the goofy but loveable Willard. Katherine Murphy, Kayla McAvoy and Anna Falvey, who played Ariel’s friends Rusty, Urleen and Wendy Jo, respectively, showed equal skill in their well-delivered comedic lines and melodic vocals, including a standout performance of “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” Kelly and Annie, as the two loving mothers, also blended beautifully in a duet titled “Learning to Be Silent.” The entire cast’s outstanding vocals and energetic dancing combined with rocking orchestral accompaniment brought audiences to their feet for curtain calls each night.

The show was directed by Christie Holub, in her first Long Beach musical, with Russell Goetz taking on the role of student director. Marino Bragino III led the smoking hot pit orchestra and Michael Capobianco brought the vocals to perfection as musical director. Marcus Quiroga once again dazzled with his creative and energetic choreography, and stage manager Taylor Barje and her crew deftly handled all the scene changes. Eric Krywe was the technical director and Kenneth Horgan was in charge of scenic design.