Review by Ellie Lewis, Mariemont High School Cappies Critic Team
Rebellion, violence, and beliefs; Randall K. Cooper High School kicks off the Sunday shoes with a contemporized rendition of the 80's classic, "Footloose."
The transition from metropolitan Chicago to rural Bomont would be a difficult dynamic change for anyone, but particularly difficult for teenager Ren McCormack. Being stripped from the rock, dance, and loose life of the city, McCormack runs into trouble with the bland, easy-going nature of his new terrain. McCormack, yearning for the beat, helps bring life back to the town with help of friends, discovering romance between the steps. Randall K. Cooper presented this lively beat with the musical version of this timeless story.
In its entirety, the musical was executed with electric energy. Performing all choreography in sync, the musical held strong with a robust ensemble and was punctuated with strong lead roles. The show was slightly contemporized, switching out style and set along with a few altered lines for a fresh take, but preserved the mature themes. Maintaining stamina and focus, technical difficulties were overcome with ease.
Alex Simpson and Erin Hubbard, in the lead roles of Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore, were truly memorable. Portraying the angst, struggles, and transitions of their characters, the two answered the demand of the score and choreography. Hubbard shone through with her broad and commanding cadence, while Simpson's vivacious moves highlighted his talent (not to mention his superb roller-skating anecdotes).
The supporting cast added effervescence as well. The roles of Rev. Shaw Moore and Rusty, played by Daniel Black and Kiki Pastor-Richard, demonstrated clear knowledge of their characters. Both came through with vibrant vocals, notably in "Heaven Help Me" (Black) and "Let's Hear it for the Boy" (Pastor-Richard). The light-hearted role of Willard Hewitt (Aidan Greenwell) added comedy and light to the musical, often eliciting roaring laughter.
The technical aspects of the show were sufficient and well-executed. The quick costume and scene changes (utilizing a convertible set) were seamless, allowing the show to continue its momentum. From leather jackets to denim, the modern costume design facilitated the contemporized take on the show. The student orchestra was also an impressive addition, never falling short of the groove.
Losing the blues and kicking back, Randall K. Cooper High School's performance of "Footloose" cut loose with a driven and passionate delivery.
Review by Iris LeCates, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
The lights dimmed on Randall K. Cooper's auditorium, phone lights flickering out until all was dark. A guitar riff played loudly in the darkness, the iconic opening chords of "Footloose" filling the room. The lights rose on the 30-person cast, beginning an energetic show that brought to life all of the dazzling escapism and terrifying truth of one of the most popular movies of the late twentieth century.
"Footloose" follows the story of Ren McCormack, a teenage boy who moves from Chicago to Bomont, Texas after his father leaves his mother. Ren and his mother, Ethel, enter a town plagued by grief in the aftermath of a car crash that leaves four teenagers dead. Their arrival forces the town to come face to face with their grief, and realize that restrictive laws and strict social covenant cannot change the past.
The cast brought to life this thrilling production with unending energy. Alex Simpson as Ren McCormack was endearing as he navigated the tricky social codes of his new town, and Erin Hubbard as Ariel Moore was delightfully rebellious and stunningly dynamic as she struggled with the loss of her brother and the father she had once known. Rusty (Kiki Pastor-Richard), Wendy Jo (Hannah Richardson), and Urleen (Callie Schwartz) were a brilliant trio, performing songs such as "Somebody's Eyes" and "Holding Out For a Hero" with all the heart and enthusiasm that make the show so well-suited to the stage.
In one of the most touching numbers of the show, "Learning to Be Silent," Ren's mother, Ethel; Ariel's mother, Vi; and Ariel come together in a heartbreaking song that brings together three very different women who are united in feeling silenced by the men in their lives. It was so poignant and so honest that it pulled from the very heart of each character and was definitely the highlight of Ethel and Vi's performances.
Marketing and publicity is the first element most audiences view of any show, and well-done campaigns can greatly increase the profit of the production. The marketing for "Footloose" not only did an excellent job of advertising, but also did a lot of good for the local community. Cora Dotson, the Publicity Manager, organized a "kick off your Sunday shoes" drive with the Brighton Center to collect shoes and raise awareness for domestic violence, one of the central issues of the show.
In a show where the choreography has the ability to make or break the production, Kiki Pastor-Richard and Kyrah Beesley's dance numbers were a complete success. They fit each dance to its scene, creating workout-themed dancing for "I'm Free/Heaven Help Me," set in the high school gym, and country line dances for "Still Rockin.’" Additionally, the fight choreography created by Alex Simpson and Jason Coffenberry was so realistic that the audience collectively gasped when the first punch landed.
Grief, anxiety, and new beginnings are wound together in this well-rounded production of "Footloose," performed excellently by the cast and executed wonderfully by the crew. High school life divides the characters of the show, but Randall K. Cooper High School's production showed the unity that theatre makes possible.
Review by Naomi Stoner, Walnut Hills High School, Cappies Critic Team
Juggling is hard. Juggling a song about not eating things bigger than one's head, a stark portrayal of a violently abusive boyfriend, and an impressive number of backflips is even harder, but Randall K. Cooper High School's production of "Footloose" manages to perform this feat with aplomb.
"Footloose" follows Ren McCormack and his mother, Ethel, as they journey from Chicago to the small town of Bomont, Texas, where dancing has been made illegal following the deaths of four teens coming home from a dance. Soon after his arrival, Ren befriends the dopey but lovable Willard and meets the rebellious preacher's daughter, Ariel, along with her fast-talking friend, Rusty. Naturally, Ren and his new gang of friends band together to overthrow the town's law prohibiting dancing. The show deals with such mature themes as domestic violence, parental abandonment, and religious identity, all the while maintaining its identity as a musical comedy.
The show, as a whole, was handled well, especially considering the technical challenges it faced, such as malfunctioning microphones. The actors maintained the high energy necessary for the show with grace. The technical elements were appropriate for the show and aided in the audience's understanding of the piece.
Kiki Pastor-Richard, as Rusty, was a standout with her impressive vocals on songs "Somebody's Eyes" and "Let's Hear It for the Boy." Her counterpart, Willard, played by Aidan Greenwell, was equally impressive in his comedic timing. Reverend Shaw Moore, played by Daniel Black, captivated the audience with his outstanding vocals and portrayal of the troubled man of God. Cate Longo as Ethel was engagingly likeable during her time on stage.
The ensemble of "Footloose" was equally as riveting as the leads. The dancers worked as a rhythmic unit, and the entire cast had impressive chemistry with one another.
In addition to accomplished actors, "Footloose" boasted an impressive technical and creative crew. The orchestra, which held ten students, was nothing less than professional. The set was designed with practicality in mind, as it had the ability to change into various locales in a moment. The marketing and publicity crew partnered with the Brighton Center to generate a shoe-drive for women suffering from domestic abuse. This, in addition to being incredibly altruistic, complemented the show's themes regarding abuse.
"Footloose" is one of a very few shows that requires actors to both balance on their heads and balance adult themes with slapstick. This is a tall order for even a professional company, yet the tech crew and actors of Randall K. Cooper High School truly delivered with this production.
Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews
“Noteworthy were the seamless scene changes performed by the obviously well-rehearsed crew led by stage manager, Claire Lusk. Other notable accomplishments included the challenging combat scenes which were led by student stage combat choreographers Jason Coffenberry and Alex Simpson, along with the astonishing thirteen-piece student orchestra.”
-Vivien Terselic, Loveland High School
“Alex Simpson turned in a lively performance as the charming Ren McCormack. He demonstrated great range as he perfectly balanced his comedic timing in the more lighthearted scenes with his somber, yet poignant delivery in the heavier dramatic scenes. Daniel Black also delivered a dynamic performance as the hard-nosed Reverend who may feel more conflicted about his preaching than he lets on. Black beautifully performed his character's arc and showed off immense vocal talent in the process.
-Luke Rohling, Loveland High School
“‘Footloose’ was a very difficult musical to execute, but high energy, especially in choreography, and full utilization of comedic opportunity allowed for good performances and an enjoyable show. Student-led fight choreography heightened the realism, giving the show the suspense and conflict it needed.
-Sam Frank, Walnut Hills High School
“Alex Simpson showed great skill as the too-cool-for-school and feisty Ren. Not only were his deeper moments in the show, such as when he is making his final plea to Rev. Shaw Moore, well-thought-out, but he also shined in more lighthearted and comedic moments, all while still playing the intense character.”
-Clare Brennan, Walnut Hills High School
“The choreography, done by Kyrah Beesley, Jason Coffenberry, Kiki Pastor-Richard, and Alex Simpson impressively added to the larger-than-life sense established by the energetic score. Similarly, the Cut Loose Orchestra artistically handled this demanding score without a single hiccup. From jazzy sax solos to light, airy classical music, one could scarcely tell the student orchestra apart from a professional track.”
-Reeya Dighe, Walnut Hills High School
“Alongside the leads, stood an equally talented supporting cast. Kiki Pastor-Richard, who played Rusty, kept phenomenal energy and presence throughout the entirety of the show. Pastor-Richard had consistently superb vocals while performing challenging dances with an effortless air. Cate Longo created fantastic characterization and exhibited eloquent control over her voice in the role of Ethel McCormack. Aidan Greenwell demonstrated great physical comedy while playing Willard Hewitt, which brought the character to life.”
-Mattie Flynn, Mercy McAuley High School
“The running crew, led by stage manager Claire Lusk, pulled off transitions seamlessly, which allowed the story and production to flow with ease. Another notable technical aspect was the choreography, especially the authentic stage combat, choreographed by Alex Simpson and Jason Coffenberry who played Ren McCormack and Chuck Cranston in the performance. Balancing two major roles and helping with the production is an outstanding feat to be praised, and the boys did not disappoint.”
-Nicole Magliocco, Ursuline Academy