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'Footloose The Musical' at Pa. Playhouse bursts with energy from area students, grads

By Kathy Lauer-Williams

August 4, 2009''Footloose: The Musical,'' which opened Friday at Pennsylvania Playhouse, is an excellent production bursting with youthful energy.

The dancing is exhilarating, beginning with the opening number, when the stage fills with young people athletically jumping, spinning and pounding their feet in unison.

The musical is based on the 1984 cult movie starring Kevin Bacon and incorporates popular '80s songs as well as music written specifically for the show.

The talented cast of 40 includes many students and recent graduates. Parkland grad Drew Moyer makes a likeable hero as Ren McCormack, the high school senior who wants to organize a dance in a small-minded town where dancing is against the law. Moyer has a commanding stage presence and is an athletic dancer. Saucon Valley grad Larissa Colangelo is fetching as the bad-girl/good-girl preacher's daughter, Ariel, and Ren's love interest.

Matthew Walczer makes Rev. Shaw Moore, the minister who opposes dancing and other kind of fun, sympathetic especially when the real reason for his opposition comes out.

All the characters are good, but the best parts of the show undoubtedly are the production numbers. Kudos to director Ann Marie Squerrini and dance choreographer Mariel Letourneau.

Vince Rostkowski imbues town bad boy Chuck Cranston with plenty of attitude. A number with two of his biker cronies, ''The Girl Gets Around,'' features great harmonies and a truly inventive use of pipes to create the illusion of motorcycles.

Colangelo's big number, ''Holding Out For a Hero,'' is another highlight. Strongly backed by the girl trio of Colleen Maurer, Bethany Nothstein and Sydney Yonak, Colangelo makes the song, familiar from the radio, her own. The addition of athletic dancers dressed as heroes -- a Boy Scout, a sailor and even a businessman with a Superman shirt peeking out -- had the whole audience clapping.

Jose Calvo plays local yokel and Ren's buddy Willard Hewitt, whose showstopper number, ''Mama Says,'' is also a comedic high point.

Other great numbers include the paranoic ''Somebody's Eyes,'' the power duet ''Almost Paradise'' and the iconic title song which opens and closes the show.

The focus on dancing is enhanced by the minimalist industrial set that changes scenes with simple props such as benches for the church and tables for the teen's burger joint. Grafitti adds a humorous touch. Look for a nod to the film's original star.

The six-person orchestra provides a big sound that matches the exuberant dancing.

Copyright © 2009, The Morning Call

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