KIDSTAGE kicks out with ‘Footloose’

January 4, 2011

By Laura Geggel


A trio of friends in ‘Footloose,’ Sarah Russell (Rusty), Molly Knudson (Urleen) and Emily Johnson (Wendy Jo) burst into a 1980s song. Photos by Jean Johnson

The 1980s are back with Village Theatre KIDSTAGE’s production of “Footloose,” drawing audiences into a small California town that has a ban on dancing and many young, eager dancers trying to repeal the stifling law.

KIDSTAGE last performed “Footloose” in 2002, shortly after the musical made popular by the 1984 movie with Kevin Bacon, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest was turned into a stage show. Director Faith Russell and her colleagues chose it again for its high-energy music and dancing, and good take-home messages, Production Coordinator Helen Voelker said.

“The musical is about having an obstacle and overcoming that obstacle — and having a dance,” she said.

The play follows Ren McCormack (Jordon Bolden) and his mother Ethel (Joell Weil) when they move from Chicago, where Ren is the king of teenage dancers at Windy City nightclubs, to Bomont, Calif.

Once Ren gets his bearings in Bomont, he learns two things: The Rev. Shaw Moore (Connor Rice) initiated the dancing ban and his daughter, Ariel Moore (Natalee Merrill-Boyet), is rebellious and has snagged Ren’s affections, even though she already has an incorrigible boyfriend.

Ren quickly makes friends with Willard Hewitt (Brian Sandstrom) and Rusty (Sarah Russell), who has had a crush on Willard since something like forever.

Like many of the cast, Russell first saw “Footloose” on the silver screen.

“I loved it,” she said. “I saw the movie first and fell in love with the music and dancing.”

With help from choreographer Eia Waltzer, the actors have rehearsed ballet, jazz, hip-hop and a country line dance.

“We had a great group of dancers come in and audition, which is great because they can take it to the next level,” Waltzer said.

She turned her favorite musical number, “Holding Out for a Hero,” into a 1980’s music video fantasy, with borrowed scenes from the movie “Flashdance” and the song “Girls Just Want to have Fun.”

Live music accompanies the musical, held at the Meydenbauer Center. The First Stage Theatre under construction in downtown Issaquah will house KIDSTAGE in the future. The theater should be completed in spring.

With plenty of rehearsals under their 1980s high-waisted belts, the actors are ready to wow their audience with their verve.

Russell said she easily relates to her character, Rusty, because they’re both quirky and like to talk a blue streak. Under the tutelage of KIDSTAGE administrators, she has learned to study her character and truly embody Rusty.

“The challenging part is to be grounded in what makes her sad, what makes her happy,” Russell said.

Sandstrom, who plays her crush, said he liked the scene “Mama Says” because he gets to be “goofy and fun,” when he tells Ren not to give up in his crusade to legalize dancing in Bomont.

Like Russell, he has explored all aspects of his character and transforms himself into a belligerent teenager during a fight scene.

“I’ve had to work on finding that anger inside myself and bringing it out onstage,” he said.

His friend, Mike Klinge, plays Ariel’s mean boyfriend, Chuck Cranston. Though the two fight onstage, they said they high-five and laugh it off once they are offstage.

“It’s a little weird having to be such an angry and desolate person, but it’s fun to play the bad character,” Klinge said.

If you go

‘Footloose’

  • 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8-9, 14-15
  • 2 p.m. Jan. 9, 15-16
  • Meydenbauer Center,
  • 11100 N.E. Sixth St., Bellevue
  • $18 general; $16 youth 21 or
  • younger, and seniors
  • Call 392-2202 or go to www.villagekidstage.org

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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