Aimee Shultz is a WPHS senior and assistant director of the musical
Anyone who was a young person in the 80’s remembers the Kenny Logins hit song, “Footloose”, as well as its movie counterpart starring Kevin Bacon. Now, the Park Players are taking their own spin on the show, making it a must-see for a new generation of theater-goers.
Footloose is a rock-and-roll phenomenon that became a trademark of its time. Now, as the Park Players take the reins on the catchy tunes, enthralling dance numbers and fast-paced script, they are able to convey in new and exciting ways what the show meant to its original audience over thirty years ago. The plot centers on Ren McCormack, a fast-paced, free-wheeling city kid from Chicago. He and his mother, Ethel, move to the small town of Bomont for Ren’s senior year of high school. Ren is in for quite a shock, however, when he discovers that as part of the aftermath of a terrible tragedy, the town has outlawed dancing. This story is about Ren’s journey to opening the hearts of the citizens of Bomont to discover freedom, redemption, and fun. Along the way, he meets an exciting new group of friends, as well as the enigmatic Preacher’s daughter, Ariel, who challenges him to not only learn what it means to be free, but also what it means to fight for what you believe in.
Bringing the character of Ren to life is senior Jesse Williams, who is excited to be a part of the production. With regards to his character, he had this to say: “Ren is a frustrated kid. He is willful in everything he does. He does not like to be marginalized – much like myself. He is addicted to freedom.” Though Jesse has had principal roles in Park Players productions before, this is his first lead.
Alongside Ren on his journey is his best friend, Willard, portrayed by senior Willie McCleery. Willie has had seven roles in Park Players productions since his freshman year, and says that for the last three, he has played elderly gentlemen. “I have enjoyed playing these older guys, but playing Willard gives me a new challenge my senior year. Willard has always been my favorite Footloose character. He is very different from me, which adds more fun to the experience.” When asked to describe the role of Willard, Willie said, “He is a very aggressive country boy. Even though I grew up on a farm, I am not as much of a country boy as Willard. Plus, I get to sing a very entertaining song, Mama Says.”
Senior and Assistant Director Aimee Schultz, who has been in seven Park Players productions since her freshman year as well, says that being a part of Footloose has been much different than any of the shows at Park she has done before. “It just felt different. This group of seniors is so special, and I think you can tell when we’re onstage that we’re soaking it all up and going out with a bang. Getting to have this experience alongside my friends has been amazing, and I know that I will always remember having had the opportunity to be a part of it.”
What is especially unique about this production is that it has given the opportunity to be a part of something special to some who haven’t been onstage in quite some time. Senior Lizzy Sellers hasn’t done a play since her freshman year, but she says that being a part of Footloose is one of her favorite activities she’s done in high school. “The people have been very welcoming. I love my character, too. She is more outgoing…it’s fun to be different from who I am.”
Footloose is senior Jordan Crow’s seventh Park Player show. She plays the female lead, Ariel. “It has been a very fun show. It is one of the most modern shows we have done. Ariel is a very different character than what I am used to. She is a rebellious girl who has a lot of intelligence, but personal problems as well. Her confusion about who she is and her clashing relationship with her father provide a major dramatic element to the musical.”
Jordan believes the music is extremely catchy and fun to dance to. “I have danced for Oglebay Institute for eleven years. I am glad I have my jazz and theater experience to bring to the role and the musical as a whole.”
Senior Ali Irvin has taken dance classes at Oglebay Institute for nine years: “I have been in three Park Player musicals since sophomore year. As a dancer, I enjoy being with other trained dancers because this allows us to showcase our training. I have made my best friends through the shows. This has been my favorite activity in high school. I think Footloose is going to be exciting with its rock style and exciting scenes. I also like the setting of the 80’s. As head of the make-up crew, we do a lot of fun designs with big hair.”
Senior Adelaide Estep, also an Oglebay Institute dancer for nine years, plays the important role of Rusty, Ariel’s best friend. “I have loved playing Rusty. She is lively and outgoing.” Adelaide’s first Park Player musical was Anything Goes in her sophomore year. Last year, Adelaide played Belle in the Park Player’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Adelaide believes Footloose is very different. “Footloose has a lot of rock music that we can all relate to. Being in the Park Player productions has let me play so many different characters and learn about other time periods.”
Adelaide added her feelings about performing in the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center. “Having the opportunity to practice and perform in this venue has been an incredible experience. It is a privilege to have such an amazing place to share the arts.”
Footloose is sure to be a lot of fun for cast, crew, orchestra, and audience alike. Tickets are $10 for students and $12 for adults and can be purchased by going online to the Park Players website http://parkplayers.tixato.com/buy. The final two productions are at the JB Chambers Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 2nd at 7pm and May 3rd at 2pm. Come join this talented group of students for a time of celebration. Everybody cut footloose!