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This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 14, 1999. All rights reserved

Broadway Review: `Footloose’

If the 1984 film "Footloose" served as a rite

of passage for you, you may want to see what Broadway has done with

it. If you concede that it was the film’s invigorating, youth-propelled

dancing that compensated for the corny, hackneyed, and far-fetched

plot, then you are half way home to enjoying the stage version.

"Footloose" is now a big splashy Broadway musical that boasts

the kind of let-loose get-togethers designed to keep mini-minds from

asking, "What’s going on here?" A neutered cross between the

adolescent angst of "Rebel Without a Cause" and the sexual

dynamics of "Flashdance," "Footloose" is more weirdly

cultish. Pre-teens especially dig the odd story as much as the libido-driven

dances.

What goes on between the servings of A.C. Ciulla’s gymnastic choreography

is almost worthy of a sci-fi flick. The residents of a small provincial

town somewhere in the heartland of America appear to be living in

a repressed state of perpetual funk. They are not prepared for the

buoyant, big city personalities of divorcee Ethel McCormack (Catherine

Cox) and her personable teenage son, Ren (Jeremy Kushnier), who are

treated like visiting aliens.

Arriving in search of a new life with the help of family relatives,

Ethel and Ren find things more than a little strange in their new

town. Its townsfolk, clergy, school faculty, and particularly the

high schoolers, look askance at the antics of the bright, enthusiastic,

life-affirming Ren. They are horrified and resentful to see the young

stranger attempting to be friendly by dancing.

Ren and Ethel are shocked to discover that the local church and town

council have banned all dancing. The whole town has been led to believe

by its one and only spiritual leader, the stiff-necked autocratic

Reverend Shaw Moore (Stephen Lee Anderson), that dancing is evil.

That is ever since a fatal car crash that included among its teenage

victims, his son. Trying to find a life within the clergyman’s immovable

stance on dancing is his conciliatory wife, Vi (Dee Hoty), and his

outspoken, rebellious daughter Ariel (Jennifer Laura Thompson). Can

Ren and Ariel keep from meeting secretly and kicking up their heels?

No way. Will the town come to its senses? Sure thing!

You would think that it would be easy to push aside a story as foolish

as this for the sheer anticipation of seeing youthful bodies spin,

turn, jump, and leap in reckless abandon. But it’s not easy to push

aside such an inane premise and a bevy of characters that haven’t

anything to say or sing about that’s worth listening to. The familiar

characters that appear somehow acceptably one-dimensional in the film

are more conspicuously cloned and cloying on stage.

The performers, however, know how to sell what they have. The loose,

limber, and talented Kushnier is genuinely appealing as the all-dancing

and singing kid who crash-lands in the Bible Belt. Thompson is a charmer

and sings a sweet duet ("Almost Paradise") with Kushnier atop

a bridge. Tom Plotkin is funny as the town dunce, while Anderson is

not as the fire and brimstone preacher. Times must be tough when Hoty,

a fine actress and singer, has to settle for the thankless one-song

(the insipid "Can You Find It in Your Heart") role she has

here.

The show’s book by Dean Pitchford (who also wrote the

screenplay) is a textbook of moralizing and demoralizing cliches so

indefensible as to be offensive. This is true in the light of a show

that doesn’t display a trace of normal behavior, either sexual or

social. Does this mean the show has been made acceptable for those

pre-teens and younger whose parents can pay $75 a seat?

The film’s original, lively pop score ("Let’s Hear It For the

Boy" is memorable) by Tom Snow and lyrics by Pitchford, is all

there, but, to its detriment, augmented with some new and truly awful

songs. Director Walter Bobbie attacks the show’s dumbest scenes —

all those that depend upon dialogue, music, and lyrics at the Moore

home, the town hall, and the church — with the same enthusiasm

that he supplies the remaining song and dance scenes.

Bobbie makes sure the more polished young dancers upstage the few

that are less so. Not to be upstaged is designer John Lee Beatty,

who illustrates what a bright palette, imagination, and ingenuity

can do for a joyless town and a high school locker room. HH

— Simon Saltzman

Footloose, Richard Rodgers, 226 West 46 Street, 800-755-4000.

$40 to $75.

Top Of Page
On Broadway

The key: HHHH Don’t miss; HHH You won’t feel cheated;

HH Maybe you should have stayed home; H Don’t blame us.

Amy’s View, Barrymore, 243 West 47. Judi Dench in David

Hare’s latest. Previews.

Annie Get Your Gun H Marquis, Broadway at 46. Ticketmaster.

Bernadette Peters sings.

Art HH Royale, 242 West 45. Tony winner for best

play.

Beauty and the Beast HHH Palace, Broadway at 47.

Ticketmaster.

Cabaret HHH Studio 54, 254 West 54, 800-432-7250.

Cats HHH Winter Garden, 50 & Broadway.

Chicago HHHH Shubert, 225 West 44.

Closer, Music Box, 239 West 45.

Death of a Salesman HHHH O’Neill, 230 West 49.

Brian Dennehy and Elizabeth Franz.

Fosse HHH Broadhurst, 235 West 44.

It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, Vivian Beaumont, 150 West

65. New musical from Crossroads Theater, opens April 22.

Jekyll & Hyde HH Plymouth, 236 West 45.

Les Miserables HHH Imperial, 249 West 45.

Marlene, Cort, 138 West 48. With Sian Phillips.

Miss Saigon HHHH Broadway, 53 and Broadway.

Night Must Fall, Helen Hayes, 44 Street west of Broadway.

Matthew Broderick.

Not About Nightingales HHHH Circle in the Square,

50 and Broadway. Tennessee Williams.

Peter Pan, Gershwin, 222 West 51. Ticketmaster. Cathy

Rigby returns as the boy who wouldn’t grow up.

Ragtime HHHH Ford Center, 42 between 7 and 8

Avenue. Ticketmaster. Tony winner.

Rent HHHH Nederlander, 208 West 41. Ticketmaster.

Ring Round the Moon, Belasco, 111 West 44. Previews.

Side Man HHH Golden, 252 West 45.

Smokey Joe’s Cafe HH Virginia, 245 West 52.

The Civil War, St. James, 246 West 44. Previews.

The Gershwins’ Fascinating Rhythm, Longacre, 220 West

48. Previews.

The Iceman Cometh HHHH Brooks Atkinson, 256 West

47.

The Lion in Winter HH Roundabout, 1530 Broadway,

212-719-1300. Laurence Fishburne and Stockard Channing.

The Lion King HHHH New Amsterdam, Broadway &

42, 212-307-4747.

The Phantom of the Opera HHH Majestic, 247 West

44.

The Scarlet Pimpernel HHH Minskoff, 200 West

45. Ticketmaster.

The Sound of Music HH Martin Beck, 302 West 45.

The Weir, Walter Kerr, 219 West 48.

Via Dolorosa, Booth, 222 West 45. Playwright David Hare

makes his Broadway debut.

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown HH Ambassador,

219 West 49.

Top Of Page
Off-Broadway

A Couple of Blaguards, Triad, 158 West 72. By Frank McCourt

and Malachy McCourt.

Ancestral Voices, Newhouse, Lincoln Center, 150 West 65.

Readings Sundays and Mondays.

Ashes to Ashes HH Gramercy, 127 East 23. Ticketmaster.

By Harold Pinter.

Beautiful Thing, Cherry Lane, 38 Commerce.

Betty’s Summer Vacation, Playwrights Horizons, 416 West

42. Christopher Durang comedy. To April 18.

Blue Man Group HHHH Astor Place, 434 Lafayette,

212-254-4370.

De La Guarda H Daryl Roth, 20 Union Square East.

Dream True, Vineyard, 108 East 15.

Far East HHH Newhouse, 150 West 65. A.R. Gurney’s

new play. To June 6.

Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act! Stardust, Broadway

& 51.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch HHH Jane Street Theater,

113 Jane.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change HH, Westside,

407 West 43.

Lake Hollywood, Signature, 555 West 42, 212-244-7529.

John Guare.

Late Nite Catechism, St. Luke’s Church, 308 West 46, 800-432-7250.

Over the River & Through the Woods HH Houseman,

450 West 42.

Richard Foreman’s Paradise Hotel, Ontological Hysteric,

131 East 10, 212-533-4650.

Savion Glover/Downtown, Variety Arts, 110 Third Avenue.

Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know HHH, Triad,

158 West 72, 212-799-4599.

Snakebit HHH, Century Center, 111 East 15.

Stomp HHHH Orpheum, Second Avenue at 8. Ticketmaster.

Symphonie Fantastique, Here Arts, 145 Avenue of Americas,

212-647-0202. Underwater puppets of Basil Twist.

The Fantasticks, 181 Sullivan Street Playhouse. Ticketmaster.

The Mineola Twins HHH Roundabout, 1530 Broadway

at 45, 212-719-1300.

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told HHH Minetta Lane.

Ticketmaster. Paul Rudnick.

The Mystery of Irma Vep HHH Westside, 407 West 43.

The Pitchfork Disney, Blue Light Theatre Co., 145 Sixth

Avenue, 212-279-4200. To April 25.

This Is Our Youth HHH Fairbanks, 432 West 42.

Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding HHH St. Luke’s Church, 308

West 46.

Wit HHHH Union Square, 100 East 17. With Kathleen

Chalfant. Ticketmaster.

— Simon Saltzman

Top Of Page
Ticket Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, all Broadway reservations can be made

through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For Ticketmaster

listings call 800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.

For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,

and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing

arts hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS same-day,

half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47th) is open

daily, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

for Wednesday and Saturday matinees; and noon to closing for Sunday

matinees. The lower Manhattan booth, on the Mezzanine at 2 World Trade

Center, is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday

11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; closed Sunday. Cash or travelers’ checks only.

Visit TKTS at: www.tdf.org.

A Broadway ticket line at 212-302-4111 gives information on Broadway,

selected Off-Broadway, and touring shows in other cities; calls can

be transferred to a ticket agent. Sponsored by Continental Airlines

and the New York Times.

Top Of Page
OUT BELOW!!!

Six Story Building, Judith Anderson, 422 West 42, 212-862-3396.

New Hope’s One Theater Group presents the Kevin Del Aguila comedy.

To March 28.

Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, City Center, 212-581-1212. In

the Great American Musicans season, six performances, March 25 to

28.


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