Theater Review: Footloose And Fancy Free, Richter's Latest A Nonstop Celebration

Published: July 13, 2016 at 12:00 am


DANBURY - Everyone within flying distance of Richter Arts Center should get there to cut loose at the Musicals at Richter production of Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie's adaptation of Footloose, with music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford. But don't wait: the final three performances are scheduled for the upcoming weekend.

The show is a nonstop celebration of life through dance, under the cautious and watchful eye of a still grieving adult. The joyful, crowd pleasing finale had the huge audience at a recent performance tapping and dancing along.

Matthew Farina has once again established himself as a musical theater director/choreographer with vision and serious skills. He has cast this show beautifully and maximized every iota of talent within this very gifted ensemble.

In the small town of Bomont, a tragedy of unspeakable proportions has occurred, resulting in the heartbreaking loss of young lives. The grief endures, causing the local Reverend, Shaw Moore (Ted Schwartz), to hold his congregation to a very strict code of behavior, in a misguided effort to prevent any further damage to Bomont's youth.

Reverend Moore's rigid discipline is met with rebellion by his daughter Ariel (Sidney Coelho) and concern from his steadfast wife, Vi (Priscilla Squiers). When newcomer Ren McCormack (Erick Sénchez) moves to town with his single mom, Ethel (Alysia Ross), Ariel is intrigued by his joyful demeanor and passion. Ren loves to dance. He wants everyone to embrace dancing to the beat.

Befriended by local mama's boy and all around great kid, Willard Hewitt (Thomas Ovitt), Ren finds some solid social footing in this new town. Willard is smitten with the adorable Rusty (Jessica Schwartz), and the two play a bit of cat and mouse as they pursue each other.

Completing the girl clique are friends Urleen (Carolyn Savoia) and Wendy Jo (Bryelle Burgus). They travel, sing, and dance in a pack.

Rounding out the town are other concerned parents, local high school bully sorts, and domineering school officials.

An evening spent enjoying a musical at Richter Park is hard to top. This production exceeds all expectations. The outrageously talented cast delivers in every way, singing, acting and most importantly dancing.

Portrayed by Ted Schwartz, the righteous Reverend Moore was heartbreaking in his grief. Mr Schwartz emanates the anxiety of a parent who in his efforts to prevent tragedy fails to realize he cannot control anything. His pleading rendition of "Heaven Help Me" is powerful.

Playing local girl Rusty, Mr Schwartz's daughter Jessica reveals an astonishing vocal capacity and a level of energy and enthusiasm which completely charmed.

Thomas Ovitt's Willard was a scene stealing master of his craft. Simply seated in a crowd on a church pew, eyes were drawn to him. Mr Ovitt has a comedic sense and timing that are flawless.

Erick Sénchez's Ren can certainly dance and his singing duet, "Almost Paradise," with Ms Coelho, was stunning. Both actors were completely engaged and committed; each imbued their characters with the exact right combination of angst and adventure.

Playing the mom who is always trying to make it right, as she sees and understands all, Ms Squiers's Vi is lovely. She sings her longing solo, "Can You Find it in Your Heart," with a palpable sense of sadness.

Every aspect, scene and song in this play works. Mr Farina and Brad Blake designed the set solely with moving parts which appear to operate effortlessly. Mr Farina is to be commended for his crisp, insightful direction as well as skillful and complex choreography, which were perfectly executed by this amazing cast, including himself. He is quite the hoofer.

There is only one weekend left to see Footloose, and let's all hope there is no rain in the forecast. Unsettled weather already cancelled one of this production's performances, which are outdoors. Everybody's eyes should be on this musical which is paradise. Don't hold out for Broadway, loosen up your feet, because heaven can't help you if you miss this!

Remaining performances are outdoors under the stars, Thursday through Saturday evenings, July 14-16, at Richter Arts Center, 100 Aunt Hack Road in Danbury.

Grounds open at 7:15 for picnicking, with the show at 8:30 pm. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students, and $10 for children 10 and under. Group rates and chair rentals are available, and a snack/soft drink concession is on site.

For tickets and info, visit www.musicalsatrichter.org, leave a message at 203-743-6873, or send email to info@musicalsatrichter.org.


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