'Footloose! The Musical' - My Review

Youthful exuberance on the Thomaston Opera House stage

Opening night of Footloose at the Thomaston Opera House was nearly packed to capacity with many family members and friends of the cast, and I had the best complimentary seats ever. Executive Director Jeff Dunn hoped that all the remaining performances will be this well-attended; based on the quality of this high-energy show, I think it should be.

Footloose is based on the movie of the same name that has recently been remade with Dancing with the Stars' Julianne Hough. The show contained all the requisite dance production numbers while ably telling the story of a young man who fights for what he thinks is right. Director Foster Evans Reese set out to "entertain you with the show now and have you think about the story tomorrow." I would say he succeeded in this vision.

This mostly young cast is wonderful. They carry off the inspired choreography by Mr. Reese with youthful energy and sing together beautifully. They use the set designed by Mark E. Rees to great advantage. The costumes by Barbara Piscopo were relatively modern and flattering. Unfortunately, opening night had a few noticeable sound issues.

Rob Girardin tackled the lead role of "Ren McCormick" and confidently carried it off. A fine young actor who is also strong vocally, I look forward to seeing him perform in the future. The lovely Nina Paganucci was charming in the lead role of "Ariel," where she got to show off her acting, singing and wonderful dancing. She surrounded herself with excellent supporting actresses as her girlfriends; Victoria Beaudoin ("Urleen,") Samantha Putko ("Wendi Jo,") and Tina Johnson ("Rusty") were all strong singers and dancers. The featured high school female student/ensemble dancers were just as good.

Mr. Girardin had a fine cadre of young guys around him. Joey Antonios, , Noel Roberge, and Curtis Dunn were all wonderful. As the very country "Willard," Waterbury Arts Magnet School graduate Jack Saleeby was an outstanding dancer; he pulled off going from a boy who can't dance to an amazing one. Ruben Soto gave a strong performance as the menacing Ren's rival "Chuck Cranston."

As for the adults (yes there were a few,) they were just as impressive. Tracy McCuin Beaman played Ren's single mother with good comic timing.  Cathy Thoben Quirk, who played four roles in , was amazing as Ariel's mom. Tony Sposato used his wonderful voice to the fullest as the Rev. Shaw Moore.

Finally, "Let's Hear It For" Nina Paganucci's mom Patti. stepped into the role of "the Principal/Betty Blast/Townsperson" at the very last minute and with a few "cheat sheets" pulled it off with aplomb. Miss Nina should be very proud of her talented mother; what a treat to see the two of them onstage together!

I totally enjoyed the 80s anthem rock numbers like the well-staged "Holding Out for a Hero," "Almost Paradise," and of course, "Footloose," but some of the new songs that augmented the score were just as good. The mothers and daughter were haunting on "Learning to Be Silent" and the trio of girlfriends blended voices on "Somebody's Eyes." The guys were able to shine on the comic "Mama Says You Can't Back Down." Under the able direction of Music Director/Conductor A.J. Bunel, the small orchestra rocked without overpowering the voices.

Go and see this wonderful production at the nearby (and gorgeous) Thomaston Opera House. Footloose is drastically different than that opened their season, but should appeal to a younger crowd as well as the more mature patrons. Kudos to everyone involved in this excellent production; Chuck Stango, the chair of the Landmark Community Theatre Board of Trustees, has done it again.

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