Stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Music by Tom Snow, and Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, Jim Steinman
Directed by Heather Davies
Choreographed by Amy Wright
Musical direction by Floydd Ricketts
Performed by London & Area High School Students
Grand Theatre, London
September 20 to October 1, 2011 (Extra show added Sunday, Oct. 2)
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Footloose And Fancy Free

There is no lack of enthusiasm and energy when the students take to the stage for this year’s high school project at London’s Grand Theatre.

Footloose is based on a true story of a small town where dancing was outlawed. In this version, like the 1984 movie, the town’s preacher, Rev. Shaw Moore bans dancing after his son is killed in a car accident coming home from a bar. Into this strict, stifling, small town atmosphere, Ren McCormack reluctantly arrives on the scene. He and his mother Ethel move to the town of Bomont to live with her sister, after Ren’s father abandons them. Ren befriends Willard and eventually wins Aerial’s, (the preacher’s daughter’s), affections. In the meantime, Ren also matures to lead a protest against the dancing by law.

Each year, the Grand Theatre holds auditions for London and area high school students – in the fall they produce a musical and in the spring there is play. The students work with a professional director, music director and choreographer. The High School Project is a London tradition providing young people with wonderful experience.

Footloose is a musical and movie known for its dancing, and this production doesn’t disappoint. Credit goes to choreographer Amy Wright for making the dance numbers lively and fun. The opening and closing numbers are high energy and very entertaining. A favourite scene is where Willard learns to dance, played by Ben Cookson with just the right amount of country bumpkin. Willard conquers dance and goes on to win Rusty’s heart. Cookson provides humour when he sings “Mama says”.

For singing skills, the trio of Wendy Jo, Urleen and Rusty, played by Allison Aspinall, Christine McKeon and Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane, is delightful. Also notable for her voice is Rebecca McCauley as Vi Moore, the preacher’s wife, when she sings the moving song “Can you find it in your heart?” Daniel Newton as Rev. Shaw Moore presents a beautiful ballad “Heaven Help Me.”

Andrew Varkaris is very convincing as the nasty tough-guy Chuck, while the lead characters, Gonsalo Arboleda as Ren and Chanel Danbrook as Ariel Moore charm the audience with their chemistry. Their duet “Almost Paradise” is emotion-packed. The rest of cast step up to the plate and perform well in various roles and in the ensemble.

Floydd Rickets, himself a high school project alumnus, is musical director for this production, finding the best in these young people. Congratulations to director Heather Davies for pulling the large cast together and capitalizing on the youthful energy.

Footloose continues at the Grand Theatre, London until October 1. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit


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