Review . . . ‘Footloose’ Loose Again at Timber Lake Playhouse
By SUE LANGENBERG
The shows at Timber Lake Playhouse are up and down fast as “Working” closed and “Footloose” opened last night. It was a sellout crowd at the summer stock theatre with electric energy throughout the house and on stage.
The “Footloose” film came first in 1984, then the musical in 1998. Like most musicals, the show is the result of collaboration. Tom Snow wrote most of the songs with additional work by Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman and Eric Carmen. Dean Pitchford wrote lyrics with additional work by Loggins and wrote the book with Walter Bobbie.
The story follows confirmed city rat Ren McCormack as he and his mother are uprooted to a one-horse town where the clash of cultures is evident on many levels. Most alienating to character Ren is that the town has a conservative ban on all dancing led by pious and righteous minister Reverend Shaw Moore. And let the sparks begin!
Ten years ago, TLP produced the show under the direction of Brad Lyons with Jim Beaudry as choreographer. This time, Beaudry is all over the show as artistic director, choreographer and even a bit part in the second act. His special affection for social dancing and talent for historical research makes him a unique qualifier to mount this production. He comments that “social dancing is a human connection to one another.”
Also ten years ago, TLP invited Chicago actor Karl Hamilton as special guest to perform the role of Reverend Moore. This reviewer was there and called Hamilton “strong” with an “engaging voice.” This time, his portrayal is even stronger and more engaging, especially with his emotional baritone offering of “Can You Find it in Your Heart” in the second act. Hamilton has risen from member of cast then to an essential element of self examination in this show, in life. His career spans many TLP productions including “Sound of Music,” “Ragtime” and “Children of a Lesser God” with many Chicago credits that include productions with Chicago Shakespeare, Ravinia Festival and Goodman Theatre.
Special guest Elizabeth Haley as the reverend’s wife sang a marvelous duet with Hamilton in “Almost Paradise.” Playing rebellious daughter Ariel, Erica Stephan is well cast as “The Girl Gets Around,” a test to her rule-enforcing father. As city rat Ren, Henry McGuinniss delivers a skilled performance, including some rubbery Breakdance moves, as does Kyle Branzel as dorky Willard with his awkward second act dance lessons. Supporting gals are Kelly Krauter, Anna-Marie Trabolsi and Hanah Nardone alongside Andrew Way, Tim Wessel, Joe Capstick. Suzie Rogers as Ren’s mother sings movingly with Haley in “Learning To Be Silent.”
This TLP season enjoys one of the best corps of male dancers yet with special note for Zak Jacobs who takes basic ballet art form to newer tricks.
“Footloose” continues Friday July 6 and runs through Sunday July 15 matinee at Timber Lake Playhouse. Tuesday through Saturday evening shows at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. (No matinee July 14). The Mt. Carroll boonies are a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road. Call the box office at (815) 244-2035 or email@example.com for tickets, group rates and more information. Note road closures that include Timber Lake Road. From Rt. 78, take 40 East to Black Oak Road and turn right. From Rt. 40 West continue to Black Oak Road and turn left.