The 80’s cult classic movie graces the Toronto stage at the Randolph Theatre
I experienced opening night of The Randolph Academy’s Footloose at the Randolph Theatre on Thursday and it was high energy and happy days as the cast and crew romped through the musical adaptation of the cult 80’s classic without missing a beat.
As I took my seat, my senses were greeted by 80’s music throwbacks, one being Huey Lewis’ “The Power of Love”, and I thought this set the stage well – pun somewhat intended – for what was to come. As the lights dimmed and the audience cheered, we were primed and ready to be taken back to a time when side ponytails were not retro style, but just style, and as the cast took the stage and gave their all on the “Footloose” opener, I knew I was in for a great show.
For those who don’t know the story of Footloose, Chicago teen Ren moves with his mother to small town Bomont, Texas in the 80’s to live with his aunt and uncle. The town is under the thumb of Shaw Moore, a hardline reverend, who has, through manipulation, helped outlaw rock music and dancing. Ren meets Ariel Moore, Rev. Moore’s daughter, and the story, song, and dancing begin.
Upon hearing that opening number, I took three things that I hoped would last the remainder of the show.
The first was the choreography. Huge nods to Co-Choreographers Lisa Stevens (also Director) and Jeff Dimitriou, for enlivening the stage with numbers that had various and layered moving parts. With a large ensemble such as this, their work deserves high praise as does the work of the cast in keeping everything in time with the music, and the other members on stage, in a tight space.
The second were the costumes. Costume Designer, Alex Amini, and Costume Assistant Carmen Amini had the cast well dressed for the time period throughout. Special note are Ren’s sleeveless denim vest and Ariel’s red cowboy boots.
The third were the voices. These kids can wail. Be it during the Company songs or the solo performances, not a note was dropped to my ears.
Special note on the third point was the performance of “Holding Out For a Hero” performed by Rachel Cvecich (Ariel), Erin Humphry (Rusty), Carol Huska (Urleen), and Naomi Melvin (Wendy Jo). With Cvecich leading the way, the girls’ energy raised the roof on the theatre.
High fives to Lighting Designer Jenny Jimenez on the arrangement with that song as well. Overall I thought the lighting choices, specifically the colouring, paired well with the decade setting. With “Holding Out For A Hero” it was simply a white spotlight that helped highlight Cvecich at the appropriate times.
The boys did a great job as well, specifically Taylor Bates as Ren, and Connor Ferris as Willard. Bates comedic timing was on point especially during the scene when Ren is preparing for his speech at the town council meeting. His agility as a singer and performer also shone as during the majority of his numbers he was running, skipping, and jumping around the stage.
I think the glue of the show was Connor Ferris as Willard. He was funny as showcased during both his initial meeting with Ren and with his hapless interactions with his crush Rusty. His chemistry with both was also a highlight and whenever Ferris was on stage I knew something good was going to happen.
Speaking of chemistry, both the two major romances had it. Between Bates and Cvecich it was highlighted during their dialogue and performance of “Almost Paradise”, but they played well together throughout.
All due respect to Bates, Cvecich, and the Ren/Ariel dynamic, but it was Ferris’ Willard and Erin Humphry’s Rusty that I was rooting for more. The shyness and awkwardness of both kept them at arm’s length until Willard takes Ren’s advice and dances. The whole scene is quite hilarious, but it was the quick back and forth between Willard and Rusty when they talk about what he should wear to the upcoming prom that sold them for me and it was also but great part of the show.
Before wrapping up, Music Director Mark Camilleri deserves mention for hitting all the “musical” notes and arrangements, and keeping the cast moving and the audience moved.
Get out to the Randolph and watch as Bomont, Texas gets Footloose and see if you can be part of your own standing ovation. It was well done and well deserved.
- Footloose is playing until August 6, 2016 at The Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St.)
- Shows run Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, with additional matinees on Saturdays at 2pm
- Tickets are $22 and can be purchased online or through the box office at (416) 924-2243 and, if available, in person before the show
Photo of the cast by Raph Nogal