Think summer: Musical to be 'Footloose'

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Kevin Bacon is in the house.

Not, actually, in the house, but the 1984 movie that launched the actor's career is slated to wow Walla Walla audiences when the Walla Walla Community College Foundation presents "Footloose" as this year's summer musical at Fort Walla Walla amphitheater.

Many of the film's fans may not realize the movie that inspired a new generation of dancers was adapted into a musical in 1998, said Jessica Barkl, who will direct the performances in July.

Barkl directed the foundation's production of "Grease" last summer and anticipates the lesser-known version of "Footloose" will be intriguing to a Walla Walla audience, drawing in some who may not usually attend the productions.

Not only was "Footloose" the making of Bacon, it was a key moment in the early careers of Sarah Jessica Parker and John Lithgow, in a story that chronicles the adventures of teenage heartthrob Ren and his mother, who move from Chicago to a small farming town.

After settling into small-town life Ren is shocked to learn of the ban on dancing and rock music, instituted by the local preacher, determined to exercise the control over the town's youths that he cannot command in his own home.

When the reverend's rebellious daughter sets her sights on Ren, her roughneck boyfriend tries to sabotage Ren's reputation.

The heart-tugging story that emerges is of a father longing for the son he lost and of a young man aching for the father who walked out on him. To the rhythm of its Oscar and Tony-nominated Top 40 score, Footloose celebrates the wisdom of listening to young people and the joy of expression through dance, foundation staff said.

Well-known songs include "Footloose," "Let's Hear It for the Boy," and "Holding Out for a Hero."

Those are songs people know and remember, but may not realize they heard in the underscore of the popular film, Barkl said.

The "really nice" thing about the musical is that the same creators of the movie -- Dean Pitchford wrote the screenplay and most of the lyrics-- were attached to this version, even adding new music for the lead adult characters, she noted. "Which I didn't even know. I thought maybe they just made new songs, but the cool thing is that it actually has all the original songs. I was 6 years old when the film came out and I loved those songs."

The musical is the same story everyone remembers, but the music is fresh on the stage, rather than delivered through a sound track. The new songs help highlight the story's conflicts, the director added.

"It transitions seamlessly. The music is definitely 80s, but they took the musical and added some musical standards. But kept the fun."

The musical production of "Footloose" continues to tour and this version is being made into a film, following the tradition of "Hair Spray."

Labeling herself a "research dork," Barkl said she has had her brain wrapped around the production for the last three months. Making all the nuances of the musical work no longer seem overly challenging, just "things that need to be done."

There are some real life lessons in the story set to song. The movie was based on a true story of a town that had outlawed music decades before some teens finally asked "Why?' in 1979, she said. "Sometimes we hold on to grudges, maybe we don't even know where they came from. We have to let them go. Change is good and taking a risk can pay off."

In established communities, it can seem easier to not ruffle feathers than to question authority, Barkl believes. "Footloose" explores why sometimes things need shaking up, along with providing a big helping of escapism.

All that aside, the director knew she had a winner when she sat down to watch the movie with her father. "Men know this film. I used my dad as a litmus test and he loved it. He was clapping and laughing."

He may have presented his daughter with the biggest challenge of the production, as well. "He loved the tractor race. He asked me "How re you going to do that?' I have to figure out a tractor race."

The musical will run from July 8-10, 15-18, and 22-24. A pre-audition meeting will be held March 3, 7 p.m., at the Walla Walla Community College Performing Arts Theater, with three evenings of auditions on March 7, 8, and 10.

Auditions for children age 12 and younger will begin at 6 p.m. with auditions for teens and adults beginning at 6:45 p.m. All auditioners should plan to arrive 15 minutes before auditions start to pick up an audition number, complete paperwork and have a photo taken. Callbacks for principal or supporting roles will be March 13, at 10 a.m.

There are eight featured roles and 15 other roles -- 10-15 mature and responsible children of all ages will be cast, along with 24 teenage boy-girl roles and 24 mother-father adult chorus roles. Auditioners only need to attend one audition date.

All women interested in the mother or female chorus roles will audition with about 16 bars of "Learning to be Silent," all women interested in any of the teenage girl or teen chorus roles will audition with about 16 bars of "Let's Hear it for the Boy."

Males interested in the father or male chorus roles will audition with about 16 bars of "Heaven Help Me," and all males interested in any of the teenage boy or teen chorus roles will audition with about 16 bars of "Footloose." All children 12 and younger will sing "On Any Sunday."

For more information, contact Kay Raddatz at 524-5161 or kathryn.raddatz@wwcc.edu.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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