Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 13 August 2010 00:00
The Cultural Arts Playhouse, cozily tucked away between Mario’s Pizza and Ralph’s Italian Ices in Plainview, is known for quality productions. As a result, perhaps the only problem with the current production of Footloose: The Musical is that CAP set the bar so high with their recent production of 13, it’s hard for a similarly-themed show to compete.
The two shows have more than just a little in common: in fact, with Jesse Pimpinella (Ren) once again leading the ensemble as a spirited teen suddenly transplanted from his sophisticated city life when his mother decides to move to a small town, one’s first thought upon the opening of Footloose may very well be to wonder why poor Evan Goldman from 13 has to move again. Can’t this kid catch a break?
However, while Footloose is mostly devoid of the surprisingly biting humor that made 13 so memorable, the show has its own strengths; some will no doubt appreciate the age range of the actors in the ensemble, which is no longer a teens-only affair. Director Bruce Goldman is thoroughly convincing as Rev. Shaw Moore, a once-tolerant preacher who has become prohibitory and dogmatic since the death of his teenaged son, and Donna Casali (Vi) is eminently sympathetic as his wife. Annie Uhl (Ethyl) does a fantastic job showing the vulnerabilities and strengths of Ren’s mother, and does a lot with a relatively small part. Many theater-goers may find Casali and Uhl’s somber duet, Learning to Be Silent, the highlight of the show.
On the teen side of the cast, Pimpinella is once again charismatic in the lead role, if possibly constrained a touch by playing such a similar part; Samantha Gottleib (Ariel), recently seen as Gabriella in Syosset High School’s production of High School Musical, turns in a memorable performance as the Reverend’s rebellious daughter. Miles Bresin (Willard) is delightful as the town’s charmingly naïve gentle giant. Once again, Emily Tenenbaum (Rusty) impresses with her powerful voice, and Danielle Jenkin (Urleen) gets a few opportunities to show off her great comic timing. Other 13 alumni, like Michael Marmann (Gavin) and Dalon Bradley (Jeter) are memorable in smaller parts.
Furthermore, the main theme of joy as the antidote to fear is just as timeless as the message of teen self-acceptance in the previous show. The main conflict in the play- convincing Rev. Shaw to allow the high school kids, marshaled by newcomer Ren, to have a school dance, in defiance of the “no-public-dancing” law- seems to be resolved rather easily when Shaw has a change of heart, but Footloose is more about having a good time than narrative depth, and it certainly delivers on the former.
Songs like Holding Out for a Hero, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Dancing is Not a Crime, and the title song are a joy to watch, and Breslin provides the show’s comedic highlight with his performance of Mama Says, in Willard’s inimitable hillbilly style. At times, the energetic choreography seems to be at odds with the small size of the stage at CAP, but more often than not, it all works out just fine.
As with 13, there were some minor audio issues; however, the show was seen for review on opening night, meaning that in all likelihood, the issues will be ironed out in subsequent performances.
The production runs on weekends throughout the month of August, starting at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 7 p.m. on Sundays; tickets are $20. For more information, or to purchase tickets for Footloose, call CAP at 694-3330.