First and foremost, I have never been a fan of harsh reviews in the amateur circuit scene. It is very important to always keep in mind that not every company has the budget or resources of companies like CLOC or OSMAD and therefore they cannot all be judged with the same benchmark standards in mind.
That being said, smaller companies are still capable of presenting wonderful shows. The success of a show on a smaller budget usually lies with the director being able to create a vision for the production that can work without the need for large flashy set pieces and complex costume plots.
Footloose is the kind of show that is ideal for small companies. It doesn’t need big flashy sets or costumes, choreography needs to be sharp but not necessarily complicated, and the musical demands are relatively simple. MLOC’s production unfortunately misses this mark in many instances. In light of my opening statement, I hope that the below review is read as constructive and not unfair.
Unfortunately the night I attended was plagued with lighting issues. For the entire length of Act One, actors were performing in the dark. Literally. It was apparent from the opening number that something was obviously wrong and this wasn’t just ‘bad lighting’. Therefore a lighting score has been omitted from this review.
Costumes by Leah Osburn are simple but the ‘story’ component is confusing. Basically, Ren wears a red shirt, and as he starts to win people over with his desire to make a change, other characters start to adorn red satin accessories. It seems to be building to big ‘red’ finale’, where the whole cast would eventually burst onto the stage all dressed in red (a la High School Musical). But it doesn’t. In fact in the final scene, the red disappears completely. Making me question what the point of the ‘red’ theme actually was.
The Shirley Burke stage is quite small and once you add a set it becomes even smaller. This sort of a set up can be a bit of a nightmare for choreographers. Leah Osburn’s choreography is quite squashed and although it is simple, it isn’t ‘sharp’. Considering Footloose is a ‘dance musical’, the ensemble would have been better off with fewer cast members (for spacing) and a more thorough focus on keeping it snappy and effective.
Within the cast, there are some strong leading members. As Willard, Nick Rees had the audience in stitches. I haven’t seen ‘Mama Says’ performed with such gusto and energy in a very long time. Emma Blake is a beautiful Vi Moore, delivering a strong, emotionally-charged rendition of ‘Can You Find It In Your Heart’ that is a nice break from the rather thinly-layered acting that lies around her. As the leader of the ‘Greek Chorus’ that was Urleen and Wendy-Jo, Deanne Palmieri as Rusty gives an absolute standout performance that owns the stage every time she walks out from the wings. She has a killer voice, great comic timing and the most beautiful head of red hair. Amanda Rotberg (Wendy Jo) and Maddie Plum (Urleen) are also highlights, with the trio stealing the show twice with their renditions of Somebody’s Eyes and Holding out for a Hero.
MLOC’s season is selling well, and for those who are connected to somebody in the show, I’m sure you will enjoy it regardless (provided the lights are on). Whilst this may not be the strongest cast or production, the entire company of actors really do give it a red-hot go; and at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.