Madeira’s ‘Footloose’ charms audience with convincing male portrayals, great choreography, smooth tech

March 13

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Katelyn Sparks, a student at South County High School , reviews The Madeira School’s ‘Footloose’as part of the Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Everyone knows the story — a fun-loving teenage boy with a rebellious spirit moves to small Midwestern town, where his favorite pastime is illegal and the girl he likes turns out to be the preacher’s daughter. Not only is The Madeira School’s production of Footloose alive with a renewed energy on the classic tale but the fresh, modern take is assisted by one other twist — the cast is all female.

Footloose first opened on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers theatre in 1998 and ran for 709 performances. The plotline consists of Ren McCormack, a free spirit who moves to small town Bomont with his recently single mother. He forms a fast friendship with Willard Hewitt, the epitome of a small town hick with a good heart, and Ariel Moore, the town reverend’s rebellious teenage daughter. However, he quickly experiences culture shock when he learns that dancing is illegal in Bomont. Ren calls on the students at the local high school in order to ignite the town’s long lost passion for music and celebration.

As a production with many lead and supporting male characters, Footloose was a risky choice for The Madeira School, but the all-girl cast executed it brilliantly. Every cast member brought their own unique energy to the production, resulting in clear cut, well developed characters. Though some harmonies could have been cleaner, females who portrayed male leads demonstrated impressive vocal control over their lower registers, and executed believable masculinity through boyish tendencies and body language.

The show’s lead, Ren McCormack (Gabrielle Bullard) demonstrated flawless technique in her vocals, dance execution, and character choices. Bullard also shared plausible romantic chemistry in her scenes with Ariel (Jessica Schwartz). Reverend Moore (Zharia O’Neal) and Vi Moore (Caitlin Fischer) presented dynamic characters, achieving mellifluous harmonies. The contrast between the two characters was emphasized as the actors effectively portrayed a grieving, protective pastor and his soft spoken yet resilient wife.

Though the cast consisted of many supporting roles, there were a few clear standouts. Willard Hewitt (Katelynn Barack) captured the farcical nature of a small town mama’s boy, who particularly held the audience’s attention in numbers such as “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” and “Mama Says.” Wendy Jo (Rose McAvoy) was always in character, capturing onlookers with her quirky idiosyncrasies and consistent line pickup.

The plot was enhanced by several technical aspects, namely the smooth, inaudible set changes, courtesy of The Madeira School stage management team (Nora Becker, Perry Jones, Charlotte McIntosh, and Alison Branitsky). The actors utilized the dynamic set with ease, making use of the space and carrying off the well-crafted choreography effortlessly. 

Overall, The Madeira School’s Footloose was an unconventional and intelligent approach to the familiar story. Animated characters kept the audience intrigued and proved that this musical is “Still Rockin’” after all these years.

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