Encinal High Cuts Footloose

Musical gets back to the 80s



Photo by J. Fitzpatrick

Simone Rodrigues, Allie Villa, Jazz Aguo and Kelsey Canalin hold out for a hero.

Encinal High School's spring musical production, Footloose, has all the pop and sizzle of the 1980s — a decade before these young actors were born — that shows in their attitudes, costumes and onstage exuberance. From the big hair and shoulder pads to the smart-aleck slang, love 'em or hate 'em, the Eighties are a part of our collective consciousness. The EHS show gives us a chance to dip into the memory for an hour or so.

The story, for those who missed the movie starring Kevin Bacon, is about a town where dancing is forbidden. Then a stranger comes to town — Ren McCormack, a teen who is hiding his pain over his parents' split. Of course, he loves to dance, and gets into trouble right away, with everyone from his PE coach to principal to boss to fellow students. And then there's the girl: Ariel, the minister's daughter who'd like to dance, too, but is squirming under the thumb of her repressive father.

The Encinal cast performs well, under the expert guidance of Bob and Amy Moorhead, who directed and choreographed the show. Musical direction was by Kim Orzell, who led the live band through the bouncy, boppy soundtrack. With music from Top 40 hitmakers Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins and Jim Steinman, the music is fun to hear again, and to see in context of some kind of storyline.

Ian Merrifield plays Ren with schoolboy charm and a triple-threat talent — he can sing, act and dance and carries the comic notes well. His partner in crime, Ariel, the minister's daughter, is played by Simone Rodrigues, who belts out her signature tunes with grace and ease. Comic relief comes from friend Willard, played by Lazlo Steele, and Ariel is often backed up by the girls in her posse, Rusty, Wendy Jo and Urleen, played by Kelsey Canalin, Jazz Aguo and Allie Villa, respectively.

The four girls join together in "Holding Out for a Hero," one of the best numbers in the show, as their heroes come onstage to demonstrate the message in a surprising and hilarious touch. The girls also offer haunting harmonies in "Somebody's Eyes" and the company makes a splash in "Let's Hear it for the Boy," as well as the opening and closing renditions of "Footloose" (love the school dance scene).

Duets abound, as in Ren and Ariel's poignant love song, "Almost Paradise," and, in another dramatic duo, Ren and Ariel's mothers (Roma Estandian and Naomi Grunditz) join together to sing "Learning to Be Silent." Grunditz, the minister's wife, and Cory Kahane as the minister, Rev. Moore, both carry the show in terms of maturity and depth. Both have deeper, soul-searching roles and the quality and tenor of their voices carry these characters well.

Also noteworthy is country singer Irene, played by Yesenia Martinez, who gives her best in "Let's Make Believe We're in Love." And roughneck Cranston, Ariel's boyfriend, played by Patrick Sweet, is a creditable tough.

A high school musical should have some relevance for the teens portraying the characters, and while the simplest message of Footloose may be, "It's fun to dance," and "Lighten up, folks," it's nice to see a show that has teens playing teens, with music anyone can enjoy and a cast as enthusiastic about being in it as this crew. However, Footloose reaches a little further, and with its deeper message of forgiveness and redemption, coupled with the theme of the young teaching the old a few things, this show gives everyone something to smile about.

Footloose plays Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Encinal High School gym (at the back of the school). Tickets are $15 for reserved seats, $10 general admission, $8 for students and seniors.


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