The very first musical that I ever saw was Rainbow Stage's Brigadoon. At
three, my life changed. Magic (and time travel, obviously) was real and
I forever became that person - the one who will go see any musical,
I walk into any show
three-quarters of the way to rapture, as a baseline. And at tonight's
production of Footloose,
when Stephanie Sy opened her mouth and made
that big gorgeous sound that threatened to blow the roof right off its
frame, I was ready to believe again. Unfortunately, the roof stayed firmly anchored.
Based on the iconic 80s movie, Footloose
is the story of big city kid Ren who unwillingly moves to a conservative small town after his father walks out. Led by Reverend Moore, the town is locked up tight with grief after an accident killed four teenagers a few years ago, including the Reverend's son. And the town expresses its grief through a strict no-dancing ordinance.
Julia McLellan and David Ball as Ariel and Ren in Rainbow Stage production of "Footloose" (Robert Tinker)
Ren teams up with Ariel, the Reverend's rebellious daughter, and the rest of the town kids to challenge the stodgy adults and demand their right to live - and dance.
Like the Beastie Boys' anthemic "You gotta fight!" but with cleaner language....the Rainbow stage production should have been rousing. But despite a few great
performances (plus some excellent choreography), my musical-loving
spirit never achieved lift-off.
Stephanie Sy, Jade Repeta, and
Kelsey Lacombe are funny and energetic as the girl trio of back-up
Markian Tarasiuk (as the slow-talking country boy who can't
dance) is perfect - hilarious and endearing.
Sharon Bajer's physical
comedy steals the show in her turn as a wisecracking waitress in
cow-print, eliciting spontaneous applause, and Doug McKeag convincingly
humanizes the strict Reverend Moore.
But David Ball is an odd choice
for Ren; he can sing, act, and dance, but scans more as Frodo and less
as tough big-city kid capable of inspiring a whole town to rebellion. I
just didn't believe it.
And maybe it's opening night jitters, but
Julia McLellan performs the whole show at an intensity level that's
exhausting to watch, precluding vulnerability or connection. I wanted
her to dial it back a bit so that she had somewhere to build up to.
Probably I'm more discerning (and cynical) than I was at three. Probably that's a good thing. But I'm still pretty easy to transport. And despite some beautiful moments, I stayed firmly anchored to my
seat. My feet didn't even tap. Not once.
Winnipeg writer Chandra Mayor
And on the way out, I didn't
hear a single person humming, even in this opening night crowd of
family and friends....and in the land of musical theatre, that's never a