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Give a Hand for Woodson's Dance-Crazed 'Footloose'

Meghan Palmer, a student at Bishop Ireton High School, reviews W.T. Woodson High School's "Footloose."

Photo by Samantha Melvin

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Everybody knows everybody in Bomont, Tex., and everybody knows not to "cut footloose," except for the newcomer, rebel Ren McCormack.

The Performing Arts Department at W.T. Woodson High School recently demonstrated how Ren breathes new life into a dull town in its exciting production of "Footloose."

The blast-from-the-past musical, set in the dance-crazed 1980s, was first a popular movie. Both versions of "Footloose" were written by Dean Pitchford and featured music by Kenny Loggins.

The coming-of-age story is set in a tiny town whose overly protective elders severely restrict teenage activities, especially dancing. Unwilling to accept those limitations, Ren (Brendan Rice) appeals to the governing board, eventually winning its support and inspiring much-needed change.

Working in a temporary theater necessitated practical, yet very successful adaptations by the Woodson troupe, such as using only essential props and eliminating a large set. Using the small venue in a minimalist way put the focus solely on the actors and the action.

Leading many accomplished dancers and singers was the dynamic duo of Rice and Kirsten Salpini, who portrayed the rule-bending preacher's daughter, Ariel Moore, with fitting teen angst. Rice brought charm and charisma to his role. His impressive vocal range nicely enhanced his performance, and he playfully delivered an unexpected modern rap. Rice and Salpini had a powerful chemistry that was evident in their passionate duet "Almost Paradise."

Supporting the leads were other standout performers, including Luke Savoca, who personified tough-guy Chuck Cranston perfectly. Savoca's rich vocals and daring dances were attention-grabbing. Max Wollner, as the Rev. Shaw Moore, delivered his character's well-intended deeds with a calm and pastoral demeanor.

Two impressive sopranos, Mia Savoca (Vi Moore) and Jaimie Appleton (Ethel McCormack), played concerned mothers with sincerity and poise. Robert Moorman, as Willard Hewitt, captured his character's transformation from timid to confident with humor and appropriate awkwardness. Armed with a sheepish grin, slow-talking ways and a golden voice, Moorman captivated the audience with his delivery of "Mama Says." The animated trio of Urleen (Sara Persily), Rusty (Alyssa Easterly) and Wendy (Camille Loomis) harmonized beautifully, even amid wacky action.

The large cast added authenticity to the production, although some actors became entangled within the space's confines. The show was a technical triumph, given that it was presented in a temporary space. Lights were rigged and worked well. The sound effects, such as the roar of a passing train, were on-point and added realism.

The scrim effectively allowed the actors to be the focus, while the musicians expertly executed the score. The excellent stage crew was swift with prop exchanges, silently wielding large pieces into small wings with minimal distraction.

Putting on a show is a huge endeavor, even in a perfect venue, so "Let's Hear It for the Boys" and girls at Woodson High for their outstanding production of "Footloose."

By Washington Post Editors  |  November 13, 2008; 12:00 PM ET
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