After Two Years, SNAP! is Back with “The Last Supper”

Omaha, NE– The second event in the “SNAP! @ Large” Series is the stage version of the 1995 film The Last Supper. Adapted for the stage by the screenwriter himself, Dan Rosen, this play will have its Omaha premiere and will mark the first full production for SNAP! in two years.

The Last Supper is a dark and fiercely witty comedy set in a small Iowa town. The story follows a group of liberal grad students and their well meaning descent into murder.

Would you play God if you could? It’s 1921. You’re in a bar. In Vienna, Austria. You’re sitting across from a young man, his name is Adolf Hitler. He hasn’t done anything inherently evil. . . yet. But he will. You know he will. He might even start a world war, one day. So… Do you kill him? Do you kill him because you know you can save all those millions of innocent people? Do you kill him because, deep in your soul, you know you’re doing the right thing? It’s a question that has been posed by many, but what would happen if you and a group of friends actually decided to take a conviction so far that the lines of right and wrong get blurred? Would you play God if you could?

Directed by Todd Brooks and boasting a cast of veteran actors: Christopher T. Scott, Kerron Stark, Ethan Dragon, Roz Parr, Breanna Mack, Adam Bassing, Dennis Stessman, Randy Wallace, Kaitlin Maher, Jared Dominguez, JJ Davis, Mary Beth Slater, Don Harris and Chloé Irwin. The Last Supper is a funny and fascinating look at human nature, conviction, creative gardening, politics and hypocrisy of the highest sort. The production staff includes Brian Callaghan (Stage Manager), Sarah Kolcke (Set Design), Connie Lee (Costume Design), Daena Schweiger (Audio – Visual Design / Producer), Joey Lorincz (Lighting Design), Joey Hartshorn (Property Design), Gary Planck (Food Wrangler) and Seth Maisel (Fight Choreographer). The Last Supper will run for three weeks, from July 8 – 24, 2022 at Bellevue Little Theater located at 203 W. Misison Street. Ticket prices are $35 with discounts for students, military and seniors. Curtain times are 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday; 2:00 pm on Sundays. The theater opens a half hour before showtime. For tickets or more information, the public is invited to visit www.SnapProductions.com.

Tender Trash

From L to R: Millicent Hunnicutt, Lisa DeChristofaro, Andy Harvey, Sandia Ahlers, Julia Rocchio, Noah Berry, Alexis Reda star in “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”

A love quadrangle breaks out at Armadillo Acres Trailer Park between a toll collector, his agoraphobic wife, an exotic dancer, and her crazed, fume huffing ex-boyfriend.  It may sound like an episode of Jerry Springer, but it’s The Great American Trailer Park Musical and it’s currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

Betsy Kelso seems to have been heavily influenced by both Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Show.  Like Shop, the story is narrated by a trio of women who serve as the Greek chorus and the weird characters definitely hearken back to Rocky.  Two big differences are that this show lacks the darkness of the others and the songs of David Nehls are much deeper and add some character depth that the dialogue does not.  The end result is a truly fun show.

Deep this show is not, nor is it intended to be.  What sells it is that the characters are such, well, characters.  It’s an actor’s delight as they can throw caution to the wind, chew the scenery, and blow the lid off as they go over the top.

Brandon McShaffrey understands that and his actors are sterling with their larger than life, stereotyped performances.  Any cliché that pops into your mind when you hear “trailer park” is found in this show and then some.  McShaffrey gets his actors to lean into it with everything they’ve got and mixes it with their golden voices to serve up a rib-tickling good time.  McShaffrey also throws in suitable choreography.  Nothing fancy or flashy.  Just fun and catchy.

Millicent Hunnicutt, Lisa DeChristofaro, and Alexis Reda kill it as the Greek chorus.  Unlike other choruses, each actress has actually molded a well-defined character which adds a vital bit of pep to the production.  Hunnicutt is the group’s leader as Betty, the trailer park manager with an Ethel Merman type presence, but a more powerful and developed singing voice.  DeChristofaro is hilarious as Linoleum who moons over her death row husband and constantly seeks to prolong his life by keeping the power on to prevent the electric chair from working.  Reda is a riot as Pickles, a dumb as a post ditz suffering from a hysterical pregnancy.

All three ladies have beautiful singing voices and maintain perfect harmony and shine in “This Side of the Tracks”, “That’s Why I Love My Man”, and “Storm’s A-Brewin’”.

Noah Berry excels in the role of Duke, the fume huffing, loose cannon ex-boyfriend.  Berry knows how to be big and just eats the role with shining teeth.  What I like best about Berry’s interpretation is that he makes Duke unpredictable, but not excessively dangerous.  Rest assured, he’s got a screw loose, but wouldn’t really hurt another person.  Small animals, on the other hand, need to be wary, lest they become the “Road Kill” he seems likely to create when driving and sniffing.

Julia Rocchio brings a new take to the stereotypical “bad girl with a heart of gold” role.  Rocchio’s Pippi does not have a heart of gold.  To be honest, she’s downright selfish as she gladly fools around with a married man, but she manages to be sympathetic at the same time.  Pippi has been wounded a lot in her life and is constantly on the run from her ex so one can understand that she would grab happiness wherever and whenever she could find it.  Rocchio does a fantastic job of showing that woundedness in her best number “But He’s Mine”.

Andy Harvey gets the deepest character with Norbert Garstecki.  Harvey’s Garstecki seems like a pretty decent and likable guy at the top of the show.  He’s deeply in love with his wife and has been trying to help her through her agoraphobia for the entirety of their marriage.  He only gives up when an anniversary outing to the Ice Capades fails to entice his wife out of their trailer and it is then that his eye starts to rove.  Harvey actually does a good job of making Norbert’s behavior understandable, if not acceptable.  Harvey also has an amazing bass voice and gets some of the show’s more emotional numbers including brilliant renditions of “One Step Closer” and “It’s Never Easy”.

Sandia Ahlers is very sweet as Jeannie Garstecki and she makes Jeannie’s struggle with agoraphobia a very real battle.  It’s almost as if her phobia is a physical enemy as she painfully (and humorously) works her way down the patio stairs by any means necessary (think ropes and flotation devices) in an attempt to conquer her fears.  Ahlers can also belt out a tune like nobody’s business and has mighty turns in “Owner of My Heart” “Panic” and “Flushed Down the Pipes”.

Justin P. Cowan and his band (Chris Fritschie, Kate Hutton, and Nick Ferruci) rock out with the show’s score.  Denise Warner’s costumes fit the trashiness of the characters from cheap dresses to jean shorts and T-shirts to tight leather pants and tops to cowboy hats and cut-offs.  Dana Weintraub’s set is perfect with the dilapidated trailers of Armadillo Acres and the cheap furniture inside the Garstecki trailer.  Dominic DeSalvio’s use of spotlights bring the right focus on characters during musical numbers and the malevolent red and shade used for the nightmare sequence really sells it.  Mike Ekelburg’s sounds help to enhance the show from radio static and stations at the top to the gunshot in the final confrontation.

There were some moments when the microphones went soft and I lost pieces of dialogue and songs, but that did little to detract from the entertainment.  It’s truly fun theatre and definitely an escape from life for a while.  If you want to feel better about yourself, go immerse yourself in the plight of these characters.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical continues at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 10.  Showtimes are 2pm on June 28-29, July 3, 8, and 10 and 7:30pm on July 2, 6, and 9.  Tickets cost $33 for the Main Floor and $26 for the balcony and can be obtained by visiting www.maplesrep.com or calling 660-385-2924.  Parental caution is suggested due to some language and themes.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Photo by Kelly Lewis

Oh, What a Night!!

Four guys from New Jersey form one of the most successful musical groups of the 1960s.  This is the story of The Four Seasons.  This is Jersey Boys and it is currently playing at Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre.

Few things thrill me more than walking out of a theatre and knowing that I’ve seen something truly special.  This show didn’t just hit a home run.  It hit an out of the park, ball leaving my scope of vision home run.

While I am familiar with the music of the Four Seasons, I was unfamiliar with their personal story.  And what a story!  The Four Seasons were no saints.  Petty crime, infidelities, family struggles, tax issues, group strife, debt to the wrong people were just some of the problems plaguing the group.  Aside from their gripping story, I even learned there truly is a difference between The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice do an incredible job sharing this fascinating tale as each of the Four Seasons presents his own viewpoint on what went on in the group and shows the powerful influence of perception.  Throw in the group’s legendary hits and you’ve got a compelling show from start to finish.

The entire ensemble did a superlative job.  Each was always in the moment and really fleshed out the little world of the musical.  Some of the outstanding performances featured were supplied by Grace Bobber who is a combustible fireball as Valli’s first wife, Mary Delgado.  Steve Isom is a force as fixer, Gyp DeCarlo.  Lauren Echausse has some diverse turns as the lead singer of the Angels whose impressive pipes are matched by her dimwittedness and a sweet turn as Valli’s lover, Lorraine.  Anthony De Marte provides some levity as Joe Pesci (yes, THAT Joe Pesci) who played a key role in the formation of the Four Seasons. 

I was stunned to learn that this was Michael Ingersoll’s directing debut as he has the poise and polish of a director with numerous shows under his belt.  The energy of this show is relentless.  It starts at a fever pitch and just gets higher, pulling the audience in deeper and deeper.  His knowledge of the beats is spot on and he knew how to emphasize each crucial moment with proper setup, tension, and resolution. Ingersoll guided his actors to top quality performances with well defined interpretations and precision pacing and cue pickups.

Depending on one’s point of view, Ryan Williams’ Tommy DeVito is either the guy you hate to love or the guy you love to hate.  Williams just oozes confidence and charm as the founder of the Four Seasons.  DeVito is a lovable scoundrel and con artist and it’s hard to separate the truth from his bull because it is so finely blended together.  He claims to have watched over the group as a big brother and handled the seedier sides of show business during their salad days and there probably was some truth to that.  But he can also be a real prick and the way he rubs the others the wrong way and his own personal financial troubles nearly sink the group at their peak.  Williams deftly portrays all sides of DeVito’s complex personality getting you to despise, respect, or even be amused by him at his discretion.

Jason Michael Evans is an ideal Nick Massi.  At one point, Evans’ Massi compares himself to Ringo Starr and there is a lot of truth to that.  According to Evans’ interpretation, Massi was the most easygoing member of the group and his gift for harmony was equal to Starr’s gift for rhythm due to its intense precision.  Evans also brings a real depth to Massi with his being uncomfortable with success as its stress leads him to drink and the temptations of the road inspire him to screw around on his family.  Eventually the weight of the business forces Massi to make a life altering decision and Evans handles that moment with a gracefully understated honesty.

Bob Gaudio is to The Four Seasons what Pete Townshend is to The Who.  Gaudio was the genius songwriter of the group and already had a major hit at the age of 15 with “Short Shorts” before he joined The Four Seasons.  Erik Keiser is a sheer joy in the role as he plays Gaudio with a wise beyond his years vibe and keen intelligence.  Keiser’s Gaudio is nobody’s fool given how he negotiates his way into the group as an equal partner and never loses sight of the business aspect of music.  What I liked best about Keiser’s take is that he is fully aware of his role in the group’s rise, but isn’t arrogant about it.  It was just the truth. 

Courter Simmons is gold in the role of Frankie Valli.  Valli has the most distinctive falsetto in pop music and is instantly recognizable.  When I closed my eyes during Simmons’ singing, I would swear it was Valli himself singing as Simmons perfectly emulates Valli’s falsetto and singing style.  Simmons’ singing is well matched by his acting and he does beautiful work with Valli’s arc.  Evolving from the shy teenager whom DeVito wrangles into the group to the strong, confident leader who never forgets family.  Simmons skillfully handles the more dramatic moments of Valli’s life from his fractured relationships with his first wife and youngest daughter to dealing with the implosion of the original Four Seasons.

Brett Kristofferson and his band were so subtle and skillful that it took me until the end of the first act to realize that the actors weren’t playing their own instruments.  His music direction is spot on as the four principals nail the iconic songs to the floor and are always in perfect harmony.  Courtney Oliver’s choreography is exactly what’s needed for the show.  There aren’t any flashy dance numbers, just the well-organized movements of the singers as they perform, though she gets a wonderful big moment in the curtain call.  Ryan J. Ziringibl has designed a simple set of stairs, walls, and fence, but it is quite effective as it allows furniture to roll in and out to change the scenes.  Jonathan A. Reed’s lights greatly enhance the story from making you feel you’re at a concert or club to a fine moment when you see the group performing from a backstage point of view and his stage lights fuel that illusion.  Garth Dunbar’s costumes bring you back in time with the perfect suits and dresses from the late 50s to the late 60s.  Jon Robertson’s sounds help bolster the show and keep it in fine form.

This is an excellent show and I highly encourage you to grab a ticket while you can because they are selling like hotcakes.  For myself, this show was a superior introduction to Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre and I look forward to my inevitable return.

Jersey Boys plays at Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre through July 3.  Showtimes are 2pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and 2pm and 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  Tickets cost $46 and can be purchased at the Box Office, visiting www.lyceumtheatre.org, calling 660-837-3311, or visiting Wood & Huston Bank in Marshall, MO where single tickets can be purchased from Michelle England from 9am-3pm Mon-Fri.  Due to some of the subject matter, parental discretion is advised for this show.  Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre is located at 114 High Street in Arrow Rock, MO.

For Love of Ogre

Princess Fiona has been waiting all her life to find the true love who will rescue her from the clutches of an evil dragon and free her from the curse of a wicked witch.  At long last he arrives.  He’s brave.  He’s bold.  He’s. . .rude??  He’s. . .crude???  He’s an ogre!!!  It is Shrek:  The Musical and it will open Friday at the Schneider Performing Arts Center at Maryville High School under the auspices of Maryville Young Players Second Stage.

For full disclosure, I am related to two of the ensemble performers. 

I attended the penultimate rehearsal of this production and found it to be most enjoyable.  The show has a surprising amount of depth as it adds themes of racism and surface judgments to this fairy tale variation.  Mix in a peppy and moving score by Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire combined with some talented principal performers and you’ve got the recipe for a fun night of theatre.

Tye Parsons provides an effective piece of direction to the production.  He has some really great staging and well utilizes the rather large stage.  Actors are effectively placed and know how to use the space.  A particularly clever piece of staging occurs during “Morning Person” when the curtain falls to just shy of the stage so a line of actors playing rats follow Fiona’s merry tune.  Parsons has also guided his thespians to solid performances.

Some strong ensemble performances come from Emily Pearce as a screechy Pinocchio complete with a nose that grows with each lie.  McKenna Liles is a hoot with her puppetry and voicing of the Gingerbread Man and shines with a pre-show comedy bit and with Gingy’s interrogation at the hands of Lord Farquaad.  Speaking of Lord Farquaad, Brewer Wheeler shows immense promise as the show’s villain.  He has an excellent singing voice with energy to match.  Now he just needs to fuse that energy to his character work from the start.  Wheeler was doing just that by the end of the show and it really allowed him to revel in Farquaad’s over the top, theatrical nature.

Wyman Wheeler is marvelous in the title role of Shrek.  At one point, Shrek compares ogres to onions as both have layers and he certainly gives a layered performance.  Wheeler gives Shrek a crusty, curmudgeonly edge, but it’s clear this is just a façade that hides Shrek’s loneliness.  Wheeler maintains Shrek’s Scottish accent throughout the night and even maintains it in his singing.  Wheeler also has a beautiful tenor voice and is an expert in the fine art of acting through the songs with some shining moments being Shrek’s musical duel with Fiona in “I Think I Got You Beat” and the more somber and sweet “Who I’d Be” and “When Words Fail”.

Christy Pearce is almost there as Donkey.  Pearce is very entertaining as the non-stop chatterbox and faithful sidekick and has some nimble wordplay with Donkey’s wisecracks.  But it felt like she was holding back just a bit, though there were several moments when she let go and let er rip which was when she was in full Donkey mode and exactly what the character needed to be.

Jacqui Conn’s Fiona is a very different kind of princess.  At first, she seems like the typical damsel in distress, then shows a very crass, blue collar streak as she happily engages in belching and farting contests with Shrek.  Conn also has a delightful soprano which she uses to literally charm a bird to death (the exploding bird is my favorite moment) in “Morning Person” or pluck a heartstring in “I Know it’s Today”.

Regrettably I did not have a program so I can’t properly credit the scenic designer, but I loved the forest screen and the imposing castle.  Nor can I credit the costume designer who did an excellent job duplicating the looks of the famed fairy tale characters along with Donkey’s full body suit complete with hooves, Shrek’s green make-up, antennae, and mammoth gut, and Fiona’s iconic green dress.

Some cue pickups needed to be tighter, but all this show is really lacking is an audience to add that vital piece of performing energy to the cast and then Shrek will really kick into high gear.  Give it a chance and lose yourself in a merry tale.

Shrek:  The Musical runs at the Schneider Performing Arts Center at Maryville High School from June 24-26.  Showtimes are 7pm on Friday and Saturday and 2pm on Sunday.  Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at http://bit.ly/MYPShrek.  Maryville High School is located at 1503 S Munn Ave in Maryville, MO.

Dynamite Divas

From L to R: Dara Hogan, Dani Cleveland, Shirley Terrell-Jordan, Alisa Moore, Caitlin Mabon

If you like watching paint dry, grass grow, or wallpaper peel. . .well, to be honest, I worry about you and you’re reading the wrong review.  Now if you like sass, jazz, razzmatazz, soul, and rock n roll, buckle up your seat belts and get ready for four dynamite divas to add a little rocket fuel to your night.  They’re loud.  They’re proud.  They’re bold and they’re gold.  And all they want is a little Respect down at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Respect is a 90 minute concert that pays tribute to the trailblazing women of music.  You’ll sway, bop, and dance to hits from legendary performers such as Aretha Franklin, Carole King, Dusty Springfield, Dionne Warwick, the Supremes, and many more.  While you’re “Dancing In the Street”, you’ll also learn some trivia and facts along the way.

How good is this show?

Why don’t you tell me?  How would you rate a show that gets people clapping, has them bouncing in their seats, earns spontaneous standing ovations, and has them roaring?

My sentiments exactly.

The four singers just dominate the stage and had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands.  All of them have big, beautiful, powerful voices that excelled in harmony and in solo work.  Their colorful, sequined dresses designed by Lindsay Pape sparkled just as much as their voices.  They clearly had a blast performing these numbers and that enthusiasm infected the audience with a frightening rapidity.

Dara Hogan’s star really shone tonight with her complete and utter ownership of her numbers.  Confidence just poured from her as she out-Tinaed Tina Turner with a thunderous take on “Proud Mary”; hit a bullseye with a solo moment in “Don’t Make Me Over”; and brought it all home with a classic performance of “I Am Woman” that would make Helen Reddy weep.

Dani Cleveland has a nice throaty voice that just wraps you in warmth and has a flair for comedy as shown by her witticisms.  And such skill!  Cleveland showed mastery of multiple genres from the country stylings of Connie Francis’ “Who’s Sorry Now” to the soft pop of Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia”, and matched the mighty Diana Ross in “Stop!  In the Name of Love”.

Shirley Terrell-Jordan’s energy could power a bullet train and seemed imbued with the spirit of Dionne Warwick when she belted out “Don’t Make Me Over” and I thrilled to her take with Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”.

Caitlin Mabon really had a wide emotional spectrum with her numbers.  Particular standouts were an intense, even a little angry, take on Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” which was one of my favorite melodies of the night and a sweet take on Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”.

Jim Othuse’s lights lent that big time concert feel to enhance the work of the larger than life quartet while Ananias Montague and his band (Myles Jasnowski, Darren Pettit, Jonathan Sanders, Raquel Taylor, and Jacob Sorensen) perfectly played the numbers of these legendary artists.

A few wonky microphone moments couldn’t stop the onslaught of this tuneful train and if you leave this show without having a good time. . .well, I fear you fit my opening sentence.

For the rest of you, you still have a chance to catch Respect, but move fast!  As of this writing, tickets are only available for June 23 and 25.  Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased by calling 402-553-0800, visiting the box office, or heading to www.omahaplayhouse.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre Presents ‘Jersey Boys’

Arrow Rock, MO–With phenomenal music, memorable characters, and great storytelling, Jersey Boys follows the fascinating evolution of four blue-collar kids who became one of the greatest successes in pop-music history. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical, Jersey Boys takes you behind the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons to discover the secret of a 40-year friendship as the foursome work their way from the streets of New Jersey to the heights of stardom. You will be thrilled by electrifying performances of chart-topping hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Dawn,” and “My Eyes Adored You.”

Tickets range from $20-$46 and can be purchased at www.lyceumtheatre.org or calling the Box Office at 660-837-3311. Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre is located at 114 High Street in Arrow Rock, MO.

Performance Dates
Thursday, 06/23/22 – 7:30 pm
Friday, 06/24/22 – 2:00 pm
Friday, 06/24/22 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, 06/25/22 – 2:00 pm
Saturday, 06/25/22 – 7:30 pm
Sunday, 06/26/22 – 2:00 pm
Wednesday, 06/29/22 – 2:00 pm
Thursday, 06/30/22 – 2:00 pm
Friday, 07/01/22 – 2:00 pm
Friday, 07/01/22 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, 07/02/22 – 2:00 pm
Saturday, 07/02/22 – 7:30 pm
Sunday, 07/03/22 – 2:00 pm

Directed by: Michael Ingersoll

Cast

Courter Simmons as Frankie Valli
Erik Keiser as Bob Gaudio
Jason Michael Evans as Nick Massi
Ryan Williams as Tommy DeVito
Corey Barrow as Barry Belson
Grace Bobber as Mary Delgado
Anthony de Marte as Joey
Lauren Echausse as Lorraine
Christian Fary as Charlie
Steven Gagliano as Joe
Steve Isom as Gyp DeCarlo
Perry Ojeda as Norm Waxman
Joseph Oliveri as Hank
Rebecca Russell as Francine
Jeffrey C. Wolfe as Bob Crewe

Cut Loose. . .Footloose

Ren McCormack relocates from Chicago to the small, rural town of Bomont.  He struggles to fit in as he is eyed with suspicion by the town’s adults who beat him down spiritually with their morality laws banning dancing and rock music within the town limits.  A budding relationship with the rebellious daughter of a powerful, influential preacher inspires Ren to challenge the town’s ordinance and provide some emotional healing for himself. . .and others.  This is Footloose currently playing at Great Plains Theatre.

If you’re a child of the 80s like myself, then you know this play was inspired by a hit teen movie of the same name.  Teen movies of this time frame embraced similar themes and characters.  You had the loner hero, the rebellious kid trying to escape from under the thumb of controlling parents, the crusty authority figure, and the smug and pompous bully that you can’t wait to see pulverized.  Well, this show has all those cliches and then some.  It’s also one of the five best musicals I’ve ever seen.

The show is helped greatly by the fact that Dean Pitchford, who wrote the original film, also helped write the musical.  This allows the show to mostly retain its original themes and ideas.  It’s also a surprisingly sensitive story whose dominant theme is finding peace.  A great many of this show’s primary characters are emotionally wounded or broken and all are following a path towards patching up those spiritual injuries.  Throw in a fun score laced with original songs plus hits from major 80s stars and you’ve got a fun-filled night that might even squeeze some tears from your eyes.

Mitchell Aiello’s direction is precisely on point with this show.  He definitely embraces the 80sness of the show, but does an excellent job emphasizing the show’s themes with the quieter, more emotional sequences being quite potent and mesmerizing.  He’s staged the show well, utilizing the whole theatre and well placing his actors so all faces can be seen.  Aiello has also guided his troupe to very strong, developed performances.

There were way too many good performances for me to cite in this review, but some of these performances come from Hannah Hill who’s a lovable motormouth as Rusty and, man, can she belt out a tune, especially the show’s namesake number and “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”.  Erica C. Walker is sweet and sensitive as Vi Moore, wife of Rev. Shaw Moore and her beautiful, plaintive voice shines in two of the show’s saddest numbers “Learning to Be Silent” and “Can You Find it In Your Heart?”.  Dylan Ray Herrin is utterly punchable as the local thug and bully, Chuck.

Carson Zoch is not only a gifted actor, but he’s also, in my nearly thirty years in the business, the best hoofer I’ve seen grace a stage.  He brings an irresistible charm to Ren and is immensely likable, yet you can see the anger bubbling under the surface.  The anger takes the form of his fighting against authority and ramming his foot into his mouth when he gets nervous.  But he’s also a guy you’d want as a friend as he is noble and would follow a friend to the gates of hell to provide support.  That nobility is important because it allows Zoch to really reflect the pain he feels from the distrust, poor treatment, and outright hostility from Bomont’s denizens.  Zoch has a fantastic tenor to go along with his flaming feet which lets him shine in numbers such as “I Can’t Stand Still” and “Dancing is Not a Crime”.

Maddie Allen really gives a multifaceted performance as Ariel Shaw, daughter of the town’s preacher.  At first, she comes off a little mean-spirited, even slutty.  Then you realize the mean-spiritedness is really a reflection of her own anger at her crumbling relationship with her father and her looseness is her attempt to escape from the prison of her life.  But underneath she’s got a heart of gold and hidden depths.  Allen really does a superlative job letting Ariel’s real nature peek out and regain control over the course of the show as she opens herself up to Ren.  Allen’s voice is ideal for rock and she sizzles with turns in “Holding Out For a Hero” and “Almost Paradise”.

Tim Falk is the crusty authority figure as Rev. Shaw Moore.  However, there’s a twist to this character.  He isn’t a villain because he’s nasty.  On the contrary, he’s actually motivated by very good intentions which is the element from which the best villains arise.  And villain is probably too strong a word.  Antagonist would be better.  Falk’s Moore can be unbelievably cold.  He never loses his cool.  He just has a matter-of-fact way of talking that leaves you feeling like you were slapped.  A devastating loss in his past prompts him to try to protect Bomont’s youth with morality laws, but also blinds him to the reality that he is just promulgating his own pain on the town.  Falk is good at showing flashes of the inspirational person he once was and the conflict between the man he was and the man he is gets center stage in “Heaven Help Me” where he asks God to help him reach others again.

Matthew Glen Clark is a joy to watch as Willard.  The character is a bit of a stereotype as he is a hick all the way from clothes to personality.  But his Sean Astin-like charm makes you forget all that.  Clark’s Willard is a decent kid and a loyal friend who will jump into a fight wherever he sees a wrong that needs to be righted, be it with his words or his fists.  Clark has got some impressive dance moves which is best proven by the character’s seeming inability to dance in “Let’s Hear it For the Boy”.  But when he learns how to dance, watch out.  His feet are greased lightning.  Clark’s Willard is also a bit of a town philosopher as he often shares the wisdom (and insanity) of his mother particularly in his featured number “Mama Says”.

Melissa Ford has provided one of the two best pieces of choreography I’ve seen on stage.  She truly excels in large group numbers as her performers flawlessly execute her moves with smooth as silk dancing with the finale being a particular success.  Alicia Santee and her honkytonk band (Gaby Fluke and Jacob Andres) do an incredible job of playing this score with simply keys, guitar, and percussion.  Becky Dibben’s costumes suit the locale and the personality of the characters from the southwestern/rural clothes of Bomont’s youth to the more formal gear of Bomont’s adults to the more laid-back Midwest clothes of Ren.  Mitchell Aiello has designed a simple, bare bones set of water tower and phone lines to depict Bomont and uses a wooden entryway to depict a club entrance and a window to show a private home.  Kent Buess’ lights really add a certain zip to the musical numbers with their use of colors and spotlights.

The only disappointment of the show is that the bully never gets the comeuppance he deserves.  There were also some sound difficulties in Act I when microphones seemed to go dead at various points.  Still, that did little to stop the momentum of this show which is truly fun and has more than a bit of heart.  So pardon me for being a little corny, if you gotta cut loose, go see Footloose.

Footloose plays at Great Plains Theatre through June 12.  Showtimes are 2pm on Wed, Sat, and Sun and 7:30pm Thurs-Sat. Tickets cost $40 ($20 for students) and can be purchased at www.greatplainstheatre.com.  Great Plains Theatre is located at 215 N Campbell St in Abilene, KS.