It’s been nearly four decades since Kevin Bacon burst into stardom in “Footloose” and, in the years since, nearly everyone has established six degrees of separation from the actor.
Now, memories of the iconic film – a touchpoint for anyone who came of age with Generation X – resurface with a bang in the Broadway adaptation playing at Slow Burn Theatre Co. at the Broward Center.
The 1984 drama told the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), a defiant teenager from Chicago, who moves with his mother to a small town where he attempts to overturn the ban on dancing instituted by a local minister.
Despite mixed reviews, the show was a box office hit with chart-topping songs “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” by Deniece Williams. But, for good and for bad, the musical feels like six degrees separate it from the film (we’re not even going to mention the unfortunate 2011 remake).
Unlike many other film adaptations, the musical remains true to the original, with a book by screenwriters Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie. The title song and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” are also there, with additional music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Pitchford. Unfortunately, the pop hit never successfully translates to the musical theater idiom and Snow’s songs are still lackluster in comparison, if tuneful.
Since its founding more than a decade ago, Slow Burn has earned accolades by reinterpreting and reinventing shows that never quite caught on with critics or audiences. “Footloose the Musical” is one of those shows, hanging on for a little less than two years on Broadway.
Director Patrick Fitzwater lives up to the challenge with an energetic cast and a pulsing production that rocks the Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater.
Kyle Southern’s Ren is no Bacon bad boy, but the young actor soars through both the vocals and Shannon Mullen’s challenging choreography. Other standout performances come from Caitie Marlowe as rebellious p.k. (preacher’s kid) Ariel; the overlooked mothers – Heather Jane Rolff as Ren’s single mom Ethel and Irene Adjan as Vi the obedient preacher’s wife; and Jeffrey Keller, who steals the show as the awkward sidekick Willard, who yearns for a little bit of Ren’s “cool.”
The large talented cast belts out the big production numbers under the capable direction of Michael Ursua, who leads the live pit orchestra hidden beneath the stage. Like Fitzwater, Ursua makes the most of mediocre material, only to be rewarded by enthusiastic audience applause throughout.
Sean McClelland’s industrial warehouse set effectively provides the blank canvas for locations ranging from the town church, school gymnasium, and local drive-in. Costume designer Rick Peña reminds all of some of the more unfortunate ‘80s fashion trends with a little cowboy chic thrown in for good measure.
“Footloose the Musical” is not the only film adaptation in the 2022-23 Slow Burn season. Jason Robert Brown’s dark comedy “Honeymoon in Vegas” debuts in February, followed by two Disney musicals, “Mary Poppins” in late March and “Newsies” in June.
Slow Burn Theatre Co. presents “Footloose the Musical” at the Broward Center, through Jan. 1, 2023. Tickets start at $49 at BrowardCenter.org.