What happens when a savvy teenager from the streets of Chicago moves to a small Midwestern town, only to find his world rocked by the fact that dancing there is illegal and rock music is frowned upon?
The answers await in “Footloose,” the musical version of the hit 1984 movie being staged by Archbold High School on Friday, April 7, and Saturday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 9, at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $8 and $10, and can be purchased now at www.showtix4u.com or at the high school ticket booth through April 7 from 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. and 3:30-5 p.m.
Directed by Ken Vandock, AHS director of choral activities, the rollicking show will feature energetic dancing and well-known pop hits from the 1980s. Vandock is assisted by his wife, Danielle.
Leading cast members are: senior Alex Short as Ren McCormack, who moves with his mother to Bomont to stay with relatives after his father leaves; sophomore Marin Parsley as Ariel Moore, the rebellious daughter of a minister, who takes a liking to Ren; and sophomore Jeremiah Hartman as Reverend Shaw Moore, whose conservative views and son’s untimely death from an accident lead to a legal ban on dancing in the town.
Other cast members include Trevan Kindinger as Willard Hewitt; Wes Warnicker as Drew McCarty; Sara Bilen as Ethel McCormack; MacKenna Whitacre as Vi Moore; and Cam Short as Chuck Cranston.
The original film, starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, and John Lithgow, earned $80 million in the United States alone, and inspired a 2011 remake.
Vandock selected the 19-year-old musical, in part, for its generational themes.
“Those kind of stand out,” he said. “There’s a belief in the town that certain kinds of music would lead you to make bad choices. (The teens) just want to dance and enjoy life, and encounter resistance from adults.”
He added, “There will be a lot of identification of the music for adults” who grew up in the ’80s era.
As with other high school stage productions drawn from movies or the Broadway theater, the AHS version of “Footloose” will be sanitized to make it family-friendly. “The show has a lot for everyone. It’s high-energy and it has quite a few jokes,” Vandock said.
Alex Short, a veteran of AHS spring musicals, was chosen for his vocal range and strength with the material. “He is very dedicated to working on his part, as well as contributing to the show in a lot of ways,” Vandock said.
He said Marin Parsley has the vocal quality necessary for her part, and came prepared to play her sassy character.
“Ariel’s character is a bit rebellious, and she speaks her mind,” he said. “Marin will tell you that’s her in many ways. For her, the transition to that character is a little more natural.”
And Jeremiah Hartman’s resonant voice and understanding of the unbending minister’s role got him the part. “He really presented us with what we feel we were looking for,” Vandock said.
Michael Short created the set designs, Bill Phelps headed up construction, and both parents and students assisted in those areas. 3B Costumes of Waterville handles wardrobe.
Vandock said one of the most challenging parts of the production has been the dance sequences. He said most of the cast members don’t have a formal dance background.
“We’ve been working pretty diligently since January on the choreography, and it’s been a challenge to them,” he said.
What he found pleasantly surprising is the students’ acceptance of the show’s 1980s music.
“One of the great things is helping them explore that musical canon,” Vandock said. “It really resonates with them. They have wrinkled their noses at first, but then you realize that all of this music is on their playlist. It’s fun to watch them in that process of discovery.”
As for the adult audience members, “It will leave people with a song to sing as they’re walking out,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.