“Footloose” is a High Energy Delight in Boulder

Footloose-Mainstage-logo1985 movie turns up as exciting look at teenagers in the 1970s

Reviewed by Tom Jones
June 7, 2016

Jean-Luc Cavner is a very talented performer! A graduate of The University of Northern Colorado, Jean-Luc is making his BDT Stage debut as “’Ren” in “Footloose” after substantial experience in various roles and delighting audiences travelling on Holland America Cruise Lines. He controls the stage from his first dancing scene, and retains command for the entire show. Ren is a street-smart rock-and-roll phenomenon in his native Chicago. When his father walks out on the family, Ren and his mother are uprooted and take refuge with her sister in a tiny western town known as Bomont. His street-wise actions are taken as hostile by many in the little town, and he has a difficult time fitting in. He is adrift without a father figure for guidance.

In 1984 the movie “Footloose” lit up America’s movie screens and immediately found success among millions of young persons who felt oppressed by the older generation! “What? Dancing is a sin?” The idea that young persons might have a say in rules that were established to keep them squeaky-clean hit a nerve.

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com
© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

The movie rocketed Kevin Bacon to superstardom, and the movie’s soundtrack reached Number One on the US Billboard 200 chart in 1984. The story was turned into a Broadway musical in 1998, and has found a home at BDT Stage, playing through September 3, 2016.

Ren and his mother, excellently portrayed by Joanie Brosseau, face a dreadful situation in Bomont. Five years earlier the town met with tragedy, as four teenagers were killed in an automobile accident on the town’s bridge, following a night of carousing. The town decided to try to come to terms with their grief by forbidding any dancing or rock and roll music. The idea was formulated with the urging of the town Reverend Shaw Moore; whose son was among those killed.

Seles VanHess plays Ariel Moore, the daughter of Reverend Moore. She is a hormonally-charged young woman whose boyfriend has more on his mind than “dancing” with Ariel. Her Reverend father isn’t happy with Ariel’s choice of a boyfriend, but is at least pleased that she is not going out with the Chicago-bred dancer!

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com
© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

Ren makes quite an impact on the local community, urging his peers to try rock and roll and dancing. The town’s officials are in an uproar as to how to handle a sudden challenge to their authority.

The story is told through great music and choreography. “Almost Paradise” is an Act I highlight when Ren and Ariel decide to be friends. Satya Jnani Chavez as Rusty rocks the room with “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” Alejandro Roldan, as Rusty’s boyfriend shakes the rafters with his “Mama Says” when he learns to dance. And “Footloose” itself is a joyful memory. The conclusion of Act I is a great romp as well-toned athletes David Miller, Danielle Sheib, Brian Cronan and Bussy Gower compete with non-stop Jump Rope while singing “I’m Free.” And Rae Leigh Case is amazing in an aerial dance routine on the hanging rope.

The plot is trite, but there are enough bumps in the ride to keep the evening exciting. The cast is infectiously entertaining. One of the show’s highlights is the talent of Brian Burron. He is one of Northern Colorado’s most gifted directors and performers. He shows a new side to his talent as the Reverend Moore, especially in a heartfelt sermon to his congregation in Act II. Burron has rarely been better, as the emotionally adrift father longing for the son he lost.

© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com
© Glenn Ross | www.glennrossphoto.com

The cast is large and talented. One-half of the cast are new to BDT audiences, including the leads Jean-Luc Cavner as Ren and Seles Van Huss as Ariel. Director and Choreographer for the production is Matthew D. Peters, with Scenic Design by Amy Campion. The set is especially interesting, as locations change from the church, to the Moore home, to the Burger Blast hangout, the high school gym and the Town Hall.

“Footloose” is a heartfelt look at small-town American society in the last century, as the story is based on some actual events which reportedly took place in Oklahoma. Exciting music and excellent performances combine for an energy-charged production.

To September 3, 2016
BDT Stage – Boulder’s Dinner Theatre
5501 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80303
For Information: Telephone: 303/449-6000
Online: BDTStage.com