The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

March 25, 2011


‘Footloose’ musical at John Jay High School


ELLEN S. BEST PHOTO

“Footloose” cast members Max Gold, Cole Miller and Erik Perry rehearse the music with musical director Jeff Richardson at John Jay High School.

 
By ELLEN S. BEST

As the spring musical “Footloose!” rockets onto the John Jay High School stage for a weekend of excitement beginning Thursday, April 7, the stage will explode with youthful spirit, music and dance. Based on a true story, it is about a town where dancing is illegal and how kids and adults communicate to change that.

Dancing illegal? In Cross River? That would never actually happen in this arts-supported community. Over a dozen area professionals — half of them past graduates — have been hired to spearhead the massive effort to put on the show. Even though there is no dance program at the school, everyone is confident that choreographer and former Broadway dancer Anne-Marie Galler will work her magic again, this time with the original choreography from the show.

“When she choreographed ‘A Chorus Line’ two years ago, she transformed kids who had never danced into professional dancers,” stage manager Natalie Burns, a senior, said. Natalie is planning to pursue stage management as a career in college.

Jon VanderWerff, 18, from Goldens Bridge, will be playing the lead role of Ren. “I can relate to the character and connect to him because I can’t stand still, just like him,” Jon said.

In fact, “Can’t Stand Still” is one of the songs he sings. In the story, his city boy character arrives at his new small-town high school and breaks every taboo there. Ren brings dance back to the heart of a town held back by the memory of a tragedy. “After rehearsals, I run and work out to make sure I’m in shape to do all the dancing,” Jon said.

Yanni Metaxas, 15, is playing the Preacher, another lead role, but he was not typecast. “This is going to be a most interesting show for me to do because, although I love to sing and dance, the Preacher is not that type — he’s very self-contained, and that’s not really me.” 

Johanna Lewis is cast as Ariel and Cole Miller is cast as her boyfriend, Chuck. Cole is an experienced singer and musician, but this is his first musical theater experience. “I’ve never danced and acted before,” Cole said. “But the three-hour rehearsals are really fun.”

For three to four months leading up to opening night, the cast rehearses after school for at least three hours a day and the stage crew assembles for additional time on weekends. Both the performers and the tech crew work alongside professionals — including lighting and sound technicians — to produce the show. Two professional musicians will be playing in the pit with the students, and some John Jay teachers will be utilizing their professional costume design experience.

Many graduates from the Theater Workshop at the high school stay in contact with the teachers there. “Helping with the show is their way of giving back,” director Amy Geiger said.

Ms. Geiger said that parents are tremendously supportive behind the scenes, but are not involved in the actual workings of the show. “The kids need their support for the show to happen.”

Ms. Geiger has been teaching performing arts and music courses at John Jay for eight years, and has directed six shows during that time. “Casting is my specialty, and that’s half the battle, to put kids where they shine,” she said.

Ms. Geiger was involved in community theater as a stage manager before coming to John Jay, but directing was something she learned on the job here. “I have always gone to shows regularly in New York City and carefully watch the blocking,” she said. Bill Friedman is the assistant director and Jeff Richardson is the musical director.

“Footloose” is based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford and adapted from the 1984 film of the same name. You may know some of the show’s classic Billboard hits including “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Almost Paradise,” “ Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” and of course, the title track, “Footloose.” Ms. Geiger said, “This is a show that will not only get you to kick off your Sunday shoes (a line from the title track), but will knock your socks off, too!”

Performances are Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m., Friday, April 8, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, April 9, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Adults, $10, students and seniors, $5. For group sales information and after-school hours for purchasing tickets, go to jjhs.klschools.org and click on “The Arts at John Jay” link. No phone orders.

For questions, contact Ronnie Thompson at rthompson@klschools.org. The box office will be open one hour prior to curtain for all four performances.


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