Southern Utah Community Theater Watch: Footloose from St. George Musical Theater
Confession time: I’ve never seen Footloose.
To many a musical lover, this is considered a high crime against their lords and saviors Andrew Lloyd Weber, Stephen Schwartz, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and…umm…*looks through list of musical composers*…Bono…yeah, Bono.
I set to rectify this mistake by going to St. George Musical Theater’s production of Footloose, and they were all too happy to assist me in my endeavor by inviting me to come for free.
I thought, “well that’s nice and all, but I’m not sure I can take freebies.” That’s when my boss descended from on high and gave me advice I’ll never forget.
“Just take the tickets, man.”
ANYWAY, sorry for going off topic, but for those who don’t know what Footloose is, here’s a quick explanation of the plot itself.
Footloose takes place in a town where dancing has become illegal, courteous of a tragic loss of four kids who died in a car crash. Now you might be thinking, “why would that make dancing illegal?”
That’s because the kids allegedly crashed because of lingering effects from drugs and alcohol, leading Reverend Shaw Moore, portrayed by David Brinley and Understudied by Del Beatty, to crack down on the party life.
Hence, the ban on dancing.
This is where our protagonist Ren McCormack, portrayed in this production by Anson Burbidge, comes to town from Chicago with his mother Ethel, who’s portrayed by Amy Burbidge and understudied by Hayli Mayfield, fresh off of father troubles.
Ren is used to the Chicago lifestyle of clubbing and such, so it’s a bit jarring for him to adapt to a much different environment. He essentially faces discrimination for being different, which leads to the introduction of Rev. Moore’s daughter.
Ariel Moore, portrayed by Averi Jackson and understudied by Katie Ellis, wants to be different and does so by hanging out with some of the more rebellious boys. Ren and Ariel meet, and they eventually try to overturn the ban against dancing.
That’s basically the gist of it.
How’s The Show?
Let’s get into the critical aspect of SGMT’s production. Despite the ages of the characters in Footloose, it’s not often you see the characters portrayed by actors who are actually in high school.
While this may be a turn off for some who are used to the antics of Kevin Bacon, who played Ren in the original film from 1984, since Bacon was actually a 24-year-old playing a 17-year-old.
Let me lay this right on the table, there is an energy that you can only find in high school students. That energy is the primary reason why I enjoyed the show as much as I did.
The chemistry between Anson and Averi as they take to the stage together as Ren and Ariel is wonderful to see…if not a little awkward, and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Have you ever looked back at yourself in high school, when you thought you had a tremendous amount of rizz, and you believed, no, you were CONVINCED you were the hottest stuff this side of the desert?
I DO, and it makes me want to invent time travel so that I can go back in time and slap myself.
That sort of energy is present with our two heroes, and that’s just a necessary part of that age in life.
That’s not to say the adults weren’t great, because David Brinley as Rev. Moore was a wonderfully balanced, yet flawed antagonist. You can tell that he’s just overreacting, and that he genuinely believes in what he’s doing.
Seeing Moore’s transition from stubbornness to acceptance was a serious highlight for me.
Let’s talk about a character that I haven’t introduced. Willard Hewitt, portrayed by Cameron Hugunin, steals every single scene he’s in.
Willard Hewitt is the “dumb country hick” stereotype done right. He might be a couple colors short of a full Crayon box, if you know what I mean, but he learns to embrace a new way of life as the show goes on.
Plus, he’s funny, like really funny. Cameron does a stellar job of bringing the character to life and balancing the tight rope of being funny, rather than falling into the safety net of just being annoying with these types of characters.
The audience had a wonderful time with him as well. It was like the moment he walked on stage, all eyes immediately homed in on Cameron and his wonderfully baggy overalls.
The ensemble all had solid individual performances that were very fun to pick out, and the trio of Rusty, Urleen, and Wendy Jo, portrayed by Callie Rubio, Britnee Rogers, and Roxie Sparling respectively, were all incredible muses.
Now what do I mean by muses? Have you seen Disney’s “Hercules?” They’re like the muses from “Hercules.” Sassy, bombastic voices, and great comedic timing between the three.
No show is perfect however, and while I’m not going to pick apart performances, I would like to mention some small things on the technical side.
I could barely hear the ensemble. Which was a shame. There are various reasons for this, faulty mics, not enough projecting on the ensemble’s part, or they’re just drowned out by the music.
Noise from backstage could also be heard sometimes from where I was sitting, but hey, that just comes with that high school energy I was talking about earlier.
Getting to Know the Cast
This is a special section of this “review” where I talk to some of the leading cast members. Keep in mind that I interviewed these actors before the performance.
This is the first time that Anson Burbidge, Averi Jackson, and David Brinley have portrayed lead roles on the stage (outside of high school productions).
Anson was rather nervous about taking on such a huge responsibility, especially since he’s a baritone taking on a role that requires a range seen in a high tenor.
He’s also currently attending Crimson Cliffs High School and is definitely a bit anxious about the upcoming school year, but he’s also excited about what’s to come from the Crimson Cliff’s Theater Department.
When he’s not performing, he’s enjoying the rest of his summer break.
Anson said, “During the day, I go to the lake, go to the gym, and do a bunch of different stuff to help my voice heal. Because yeah, it’s definitely a lot on my voice.”
Averi is going to be junior at the Utah Arts Academy this academic year, and she said that one of the biggest reasons she is able to do what she does is because of support from her voice teacher.
Averi said, “I guess I would shout out my voice teacher Celeste. She like, really helps me a lot with getting my vocals on point for the show.”
Averi hopes to apply for the Disney college program once she graduates from Utah Arts Academy.
David Brinley had to send in a video audition for his role because he was spending time in Japan.
He’s now retired from his job, but he travelled around the world for his various business endeavors.
One of the best things about this role for David has been working with the various kids in the show.
David said, “Oh my gosh, they are the best kids. They’re hardworking, they’re energetic, and they’re fun, but when they have to do their dance stuff, they really get after it.”
In the latter half of the show, David drops to his knees in a very dramatic fashion. As I watched this part play out, every single audience member around me made a lot of wincing noises.
I asked the person next to me why they reacted that way, and they said, “That would kill my knee replacement.” Needless to say, most of the audience were more advanced in age compared to me.
Footloose at St. George Musical Theater will continue to run until August 26. You can buy tickets here should you wish to see it.
Thanks for reading!