Review: 'Footloose' Is Something to See for its Choreography

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday June 27, 2022

The cast of "Footloose" at Theatre by the Sea
The cast of "Footloose" at Theatre by the Sea  (Source:Photo by Mark Turek.)

Theatre by the Sea recently reopened for its 89th with "Million Dollar Quartet." Now the Wakefield, R.I.'s theater gets dancy — really really dancy — with"Footloose."

Yes, the 1984 Kevin Bacon sleeper hit was adapted for the Broadway stage in 1998, with a book by the original film screenwriter Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, lyrics by Pitchford and Kenny Loggins, and Tom Snow responsible for adapting the musical score.†Loggin's title song bookends the show, and there's a smattering of songs recognizable from the '80s soundtrack.

As with the film, the musical garnered mixed reviews; the apparent consensus amongst critics is that the show was a poor adaptation, but the original cast was incredibly entertaining. The very same can be said for this slick production; Bob Richard's direction is tight and inspired, but the shining star here is Diane Laurenson's choreography. It's an incredibly fun show to watch, no matter the hokey premise borrowed from a movie that premiered over 38 years ago.

As with most TBTS productions, the production designs are vividly realized, with a colorful Kyle Dixon set, fun lighting by Jose Santiago, and Mikayla Reid's costumes, which bring the audience back in time to the era of big hair and baggy outfits with competence. Bringing life the characters to life is a veritable pool of talent: TBTS alumni Matthew Taylor (Rev. Shaw Moore) and Amiee Doherty (Vi Moore) lead a cast of actors as colorful as the inhabited decade. Emma Wilcox (Ariel Moore) recently made her debut in last month's "Quartet," and she's truly at home here.

As her three besties, Rusty (Candace Haynes, making her debut here), Wendy Jo (Sami Murphy, a bouncy blonde), and Urleen (Rebecca Murillo, also making her debut) are perfect fits. NYC actor James Oblak inhabits the thankless role of Chuck Cranston (Ariel's trailer trash boy-toy), but makes the most of his time onstage. New Hampshire native Kristen Gehling brings sentimental life to Ethel McCormack with a solid performance. But it's JP Qualters' Ren that brings the show to a new level. An accomplished dancer, JP fairly floats through complex choreography, and you truly believe that he cannot stop his feet from dancing. He is riveting to watch, as is his new "buddy," Willard Hewitt, portrayed with delightful awkwardness by Ethan James Lynch. Haynes is the breakout vocalist here; watch her belt "Let's Hear it for the Boy." Wilcox is no slouch, either, in "Almost Paradise," a dated but familiar ballad in which Qualters is clearly a match for her.

The sparkle is in the whole production here. No matter the underwhelming and familiar premise, this cast and crew are putting on a show that makes you marvel at the dance moves, as well as the slick production values. Go and see "Footloose" for a splashy musical experience where there's always something fun to see.

"Footloose" runs through July 16th at Theatre By The Sea, 245 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield, RI 02879. For information or tickets call 401-782-8587 or visit www.theatrebythesea.com. TBTS has lifted mask mandates for the season.