STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
There’s no cutting loose in the small town in “Footloose.” Dancing is outlawed, which newcomer Ren can’t believe. He’s a city kid, an outsider who struggles to fit in. He eventually makes a couple of friends and catches the eye of the preacher’s daughter. Can he and the other kids then convince the town to let them dance?
Kick up your heels and find out when Facetime Theatre, of Phoenixville, puts on its dancing shoes to perform the musical, which is based on the 1980s movie starring Kevin Bacon. There are some slight differences between the movie and the musical, but producers say people who like the movie will like the show. One thing that both versions share: classic hits like “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” “Almost Paradise,” “Holding Out for a Hero,” and the title track, “Footloose.”
Kim Whitehill, of Ambler, plays Ariel, the preacher’s daughter.
“With that comes expectations from her father and from society,” she said. “Ariel’s doing everything in her power to rebel.”
Through the show, Ariel reveals the deeper reasons behind her behavior and Ren helps her to heal, Whitehill said. And while Whitehill has never been forbidden to dance, she understands the idea of rules that young people can’t relate to.
“Everyone has to deal with following rules or adapting to situations that don’t feel logical,” she said. “You can relate to ways of being repressed and not being able to express yourself the way that you want to.”
Though some people may attend for the nostalgia of reliving a movie they loved, Whitehill, who graduated from Villanova University a few years ago, admits she hadn’t seen the movie until she decided to audition.
“I knew a lot of the songs, though. They’re iconic,” she said. “That’s what drew me to the show — the music and the opportunity to be dancing.”
Whitehill, who works in marketing during the day, especially loves having a creative outlet to showcase her artistic side. She’s excited to be working with the Facetime cast and crew.
So is choreographer Shelli Pentimall Bookler. Her challenge was creating original dance moves while also paying homage to the movie, which has some iconic moves of its own.
“I tried to find a balance, with some similarities, but also just create some new jazz steps that will represent a modern version of it,” she said.
It’s a job that feels nothing like work.
“I get a chance to dance around my living room and try to figure out what will work,” she said. “I’m having a good time making up the moves. To have the cast get into it makes it more enjoyable for me.”
Bookler, of North Wales, thinks the audience will enjoy the show, whether they’re familiar with the movie (which people don’t have to be) or not.
“Young people have all this energy and want to express themselves,” she said. “When they get the opportunity to use their bodies to do so, all this wonderful energy comes out.”
That’s one of the great things about the show and about dance in general.
“Dance is a great expression of emotions. It’s a great way to tell stories,” she said. “You can’t express yourself in words sometimes.”
Both women, who have musical theater experience, are enjoying their first experience with Facetime. Whitehill especially enjoys making new friends. Bookler is proud of the hard work the company is doing.
“Everybody is professional and a great pleasure to work with,” she said.
Both women hope that all the hard work pays off and audiences will cut loose at “Footloose.”
“Though it has a deeper message, it’s just a lot of fun,” Whitehill said. “It’s going to be a really good time.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Footloose” by Facetime Theatre
When: May 29-31
and June 4-6.
Where: Lenfest Theatre, Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center, Ursinus College, 601 E. Main St., Collegeville, PA 19426
Info.: Check www.facetimetheatre.org.