When the movie “Footloose” was released in 1984 with Kevin Bacon in the lead role, MTV and music videos were the rage. The movie was packed with great songs by pop stars such as Kenny Loggins and Sammy Hagar. Who could forget "Footloose" or "Let's Hear It For the Boy," both of which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100? Remember "Almost Paradise or "Holding Out for a Hero,” both Top 40 hits? How about the classic video of Kevin Bacon and the cast dancing in a cloud of confetti in the film's finale? Fourteen years after the movie “Footloose” was turned into the Broadway musical it's now running at Clear Space Theatre in Rehoboth.
Footloose is set in the heartland small-town of Bomont. Rev. Shaw Moore (Dan Carney), whose son was killed in a tragic crash when returning from a dance, used his influence to get the town council to ban dancing within the town limits. Then a new boy shows up: Ren McCormack (Zach Bravo), fresh from big city Chicago. He's a cool kid who loves to dance and is astonished to find that is not allowed. Ren makes friends at school, pursues the rebellious bad-girl daughter, Ariel (Etta Grover), and leads the kids in a campaign to convince the town council to revoke the dancing ban.
The Clear Space cast includes a mix of actors from the local area and an impressive array of winsome college students or recent graduates chosen through national auditions. The singing of the young people is first rate with excellent pitch and diction; they really shine in the three-part harmonies of the small ensembles of Ren and Ariel's friends. And the dancing is superb. Those kids are ready to break out and when they do, their adolescent passion is all the rage.
“Footloose,” especially the Broadway version, is certainly not a profound dramatic experience. It has a weak book and little opportunity for character development Those are not reasons to come see “Footloose.” Remember those great songs? Clear Space's gifted Artistic Director David Button helms this production and wisely allows the music to tell and propel the story. The production numbers of those great classic songs, deftly choreographed by Candice Jewell, are powerful and moving. There are impressive gymnastic feats and everyone will love the antics of the Ren's comic sidekick, Willard Hewitt (Lars Hafell)
Clear Space Theatre is housed in the former sanctuary of Epworth Methodist Church and it's a very intimate space. The large platform stage dominates, surrounded by aisle/runways and the audience. No seat is more than six rows from the action and the excellent staging insures there are no bad seats. Whether sitting in front or on the side sections, every audience member can see and hear perfectly and feel right on top of the action. There's no Broadway budget for scenery, costumes, lighting and sound, but designers Eddy Seger, Lorraine Steinhoff, Brendan Smith, and Kevin Carter are very imaginative and make good use of their resources.
The audience on opening night was captivated, tapping toes and clapping with the country dances and the propulsive rock music, and finally bursting out themselves for a standing ovation at the end.
If you haven't been to Clear Space lately, I'd encourage you to return. Years back it was difficult to balance the voice and instrumental accompaniment, and it was difficult to understand the words. Now they have wireless mics so no matter where you sit you'll hear well and understand what is said and sung.
This show is purebred American family entertainment that will appeal to all age groups. No one seemed bothered by the occasional cusswords. Footloose runs through Aug. 30 at Clear Space Theatre, 20 Baltimore Ave., in Rehoboth Beach. Tickets are available at 302-227-2270 or clearspacetheatre.org.