'Footloose' a mix of fun, serious

Deb Edwards/Commercial-NewsChuck Cranston, portrayed by Thomas Strain, woos Ariel Moore, portrayed by Isabelle Peters, in a rehearsal of the Danville Light Opera production of "Footloose."

DANVILLE — Forty-four teenage actors show their talent for dancing and singing in “Footloose the Musical,” as well as their ability to grasp the deeper issues.

“I’m proud of them,” director Shannon Schroeder said. “To do the play well, you have to be able to examine these themes (such as dating violence and grief).

“They’ve done a wonderful job of taking serious things seriously and being silly when that’s called for.”

DLO Musical Theatre will conclude its 62nd season with “Footloose” at 7 p.m. Aug. 4, at 2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 5, and 1 and 6 p.m. Aug. 6 at Danville Area Community College’s Bremer Theater.

Families planning to bring young children should be aware that the show contains some serious themes (such as grief), language and mild violence.

For example, a character gets beaten up in “Footloose,” and the subplot revolves around how people pull themselves back together after grief and trauma.

“It takes maturity from the actors,” Schroeder said. “It’s added depth to their personalities.”

Overall, she said, “I think the audience will really love the show.”

Isabelle Peters, who portrays Ariel Moore, said, “This is going to be one of the smash hits of the summer.”

People might think teenagers are lazy, but not this cast, she said. They’ve been putting in long hours in rehearsals until it feels like they’re not even acting.

“We all work hard. We put all of ourselves into the show,” she said. “We’re emotionally connected to our characters.”

Laramie Ziegler, 15, a sophomore at Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School, who plays the main character, Ren, agreed that the teens have put effort into their parts. It's fun, but exhausting, to learn the dance steps and go through the rehearsals, he said.

He also said the play is different from other productions, many of which are upbeat. This one covers a variety of topics, including teen issues, domestic violence and the struggles of moving.

Referring to the audience, he said, "They can all learn a valuable lesson (from the play)."

This 1998 musical is based on the 1984 film of the same name, and features the same iconic songs, including the title theme, “Let's Hear it for the Boy," "Almost Paradise" and "Holding Out for a Hero."

“It’s a walk down memory lane (for older adults),” Schroeder said. “I fully expect the audience to get up and dance in the aisles.”

The plot revolves around Ren (Ziegler) and his mother (Maddie Youhas), who move from Chicago to a small farming town, where dancing is banned.

The ban was instituted by the local preacher (Isaac Vogt), determined to exercise the control over the town’s youth that he cannot command in his own home.

When the reverend’s rebellious daughter (Peters) sets her sights on Ren, her roughneck boyfriend (Thomas Strain) tries to sabotage Ren’s reputation.

The heartfelt story that emerges is of a father longing for the son he lost and of a young man aching for the father who walked out on him.

Other main characters are the pastor’s wife (Karrin Estes), and Ren’s friends, Rusty (Molly Smith) and Willard (Tim Mills). (To see the entire cast, visit the DLO website.)

The cast of 44 and four crew members all are teenagers entering seventh grade through just-graduated high school seniors from Danville and the surrounding area.

Some of them appeared in DLO’s first teen musical, “Grease,” last year. Schroeder produced that show.

Peters noted that there’s not much dancing in the first act, but there’s a lot in the second act, adding, “They’re simple steps, but they pack a punch.”

Peters described her character as a chameleon in her community who floats around different groups, conforming to fit whomever she’s around. With Ren the newcomer, she becomes her true self.

Peters, 15, plays a character who’s 18. She will be a sophomore at Schlarman Academy north campus this fall.

“I love doing it. It’s a great experience,” she said, adding that acting is her passion.

Ziegler, who also said it's fun, is in his 13th production in the last three years.

This is the second year for teen musicals, Schroeder said. Rehearsals started after Memorial Day, and the teens were expected to have their lines memorized by July.

“Our teen actors and crew are so talented and hard-working," Schroeder said. “I've had really high expectations for our kids and they are absolutely meeting and exceeding them. And we've had such tremendous help from all of their families, as well.”

Ellen Howie and Lauren Smith are the music directors; choreography is by Merrit Spicer; and Angel and David Ziegler serve as producers.

The show is funded in part by the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation and the Cadle Foundation.

FYI

Tickets for “Footloose” are $15 for adults and $7 for students. They may be purchased online at www.dlomusicaltheatre.com, at the Village Mall most weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, or at the door starting one hour before the performance, subject to availability.

For more ticket information, call DLO at 431-1660 or email: boxoffice@dlomusicaltheatre.com.

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