By ROBERT DIGITALE
The Big City boy moves to Hicksville. The preacher’s daughter runs wild. A decree goes forth that some key component of youth culture (in this case, dancing) must be banned in order to protect the children. A teen crusade begins in order to set the old folks straight.
The ingredients all seem familiar to American theater. However, the musical “Footloose” manages to rise a few steps above mere formula. And Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts offers its latest production with toe-tapping fun and a few scenes that tug at the heart.
The play begins with a hero named Ren, who in his senior year must move far from hometown Chicago to the mythical town of Bomont. Ren’s father has abandoned both wife and son, so Ren and his mom go to live with his aunt and uncle. The young man quickly finds himself a misfit, especially when it comes to his love for dancing. Dancing is illegal in Bomont. It has been ever since a carload of teens died in a car crash while coming back from an out-of-town dance. All this sets up a confrontation between Ren and the Rev. Shaw Moore, the chief prohibitionist.
Unlike some teen musicals, “Footloose” allows us to hear from the adults as well as the youth. We learn some of the bottled-up angst of both Ren’s mom and the preacher’s wife. Moreover, the play resists the temptation of making the minister the easy villain. Instead, it portrays a man who has a stubborn, authoritarian streak but also doubts and pain.
Indeed, some of the play’s more poignant moments come in later scenes where Ren and the preacher’s daughter separately confront the man of the cloth. Here Erin Galloway as Ren, Sydnie Johnson as Ariel, the daughter, and Nathaniel Mack as the minister all shine in their acting.
Friday’s opening night included some shaky moments for the company in the vocal department. But musical highlights included several strong numbers with scene-stealers Sidney McNulty, Phoenix Piombo and Andrea Rosales-Jacinto, as well as a catchy rendition of “Mama Says” by Evan Held, Danny Medina, Alex Sterling, Nick George and Galloway.
A tip of the hat to the company, including director Wendy Wisely and cast members Bridget Wyckoff, Emma Hill, Nate Mercier, Kitty Rutherford, Rick Denniston, Heston Scott, Whitney Lawson, Chris Riebli, Brett Mollard, Landon Scott, Adam Miller, Katie Wigglesworth, Jason Meyer, P.S. Nordqvist and Olivia Yeates.
The play continues Thursday and runs over the next two weekends, ending with a May 3 matinee during the college’s annual Day Under the Oaks celebration. For tickets and show times, click here or call the box office, 527-4343.