It starts with a bang, it ends with a bang, and everything in between is pure magic.
On the surface, MacEwan University’s rendition of Footloose, adapted from the 1984 film of the same name, tells the story of Ren McCormack, a young, idealistic kid who moves from big-city Chicago to a small, rural community where he doesn’t fit in.
At its heart, Footloose is a story of letting go of the past and learning to move forward with an open heart and open mind. This is precisely what the MacEwan theatre students are doing.
MacEwan’s new Centre for Arts and Culture (CFAC) will be opening in downtown Edmonton Fall 2017, and will house the existing programs offered at the Center for Arts and Communications on the west side.
As the final production being held in the John L. Haar Theatre at the old CFAC building, Footloose offers a colourful kaleidoscope of youthful exuberance, peppered with shining moments of clarity. Featuring an array of ‘80s-inspired costumes, top-notch acting, and all of the classic songs fans know and love, it’s easy to understand why Footloose was chosen to propel MacEwan into the future.
“There’s a bit of a nostalgic connection to the play and the fact that we’re moving,” director Dave Horak, who has been with MacEwan’s Theatre department for the past 14 years, says. “It’s all about wanting to make a big change, and we’re making a big change, so there’s a little bit of a connection there.”
He says another consideration when choosing Footloose was the inclusivity it offered the more than 30 students who worked on the production—not only the actors, but the technicians as well. The modernity of the production offered an exciting challenge for the theatre production students.
“This set is pretty contemporary and there’s a different feel to it,” Horak says.
Although Horak works professionally as both an actor and director throughout Edmonton, he values the perks MacEwan has to offer.
“It’s not everywhere you get to do big musicals, so to do something standard with this many bodies is great,” he says.
Horak is not the only one who enjoys working on big musicals. Michaela Demeo, who plays Vi Moore in MacEwan’s production, and Jeannine Naboye, who plays Ethel McCormack, both say one of their favourite parts about working on the production is the group dance numbers.
“It’s really interesting to watch everyone work off of each other and to create big dance numbers, or big scenes as a whole,” Demeo says.
“Everyone is so different, but we all come together as one,” Naboye says. “There’s so much depth and texture within the scenes.”
It’s easy to see exactly what Naboye is talking about when watching the group dance numbers. The sections are a whirlwind of fast-paced dance moves, flawless lighting and set transitions, and boundless energy from the cast.
The cast members, who are all in their final year of their program, have spent two years working together. To them, Footloose offers a fitting message to send them off into their futures.
“The (message) that stuck out to me the most was to not live in the past,” Demeo says, “to keep growing and accept new challenges and adventures.”
Following in Ren McCormack’s cherry-red Converse footsteps, the respect the cast members hold for their past, and the excitement they have for their future, is enthusiastically displayed in this tribute to taking chances and following your heart.
“It’s bittersweet,” Demeo says. “I feel privileged that we get to close it off and do the last show here. It’ll be missed.”
The humour will keep you laughing, the rock-and-roll will keep you moving, and the endearing assortment of perfectly cast characters will keep you rooting for them all night long.
Naboye’s advice? “Come out and escape for a while.”
Running until Feb. 18, shows are selling out fast, so get your tickets now. Come kick off your Sunday shoes, and help these students dance MacEwan into the future.