Footloose: from movie, to musical, to PMHS


Skylar Cassel

Nick Vach (10), Cassie Patterson (9), and Ali Leary (12) rehearse for the drama company's production of Footloose. Nick plays Willard, Cassie is an ensemble member, and Ali portrays Rusty.

In March, the Patterson Mill Drama Company will present Footloose. The classic 1984 movie has been adapted into a stage musical. Before our students “cut loose,” learn the history of this nostalgic production.

On February 17, 1984, the original Footloose was released in movie theaters. The plot follows Ren McCormack, played by Kevin Bacon, who moves to a town where dancing is banned. While there, he befriends Willard Hewitt (Chris Penn) and starts to fall for the rebellious Ariel Moore (Lori Singer), the reverend’s daughter. Ren eventually rallies the local teenagers to fight the ban. The supporting cast included John Lithgow as Reverend Shaw Moore, Dianne West as his wife Vi, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Ariel’s friend Rusty. Dean Pitchford, who wrote the screenplay, also collaborated on the nine-song score. He had worked as a songwriter for a while, but this was his first time as a paid screenwriter. Herbert Ross brought Pitchford’s creation to life by directing the film.

The filming in Utah was time-consuming and, at points, very complicated. To film Ren’s famous dance in the warehouse, four stunt doubles were needed for Bacon. Their hard work payed off when they released the movie and saw audiences’ reactions. Over $80 million was made at the box office. This was a large profit for a budget of $8.2 million. Despite reviews from critics originally being fairly mixed, Footloose became a staple of 80s cinema. The soundtrack reached the top of the US Billboard 200, where it stayed for about two months. “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams were number one on the US Billboard 100. Footloose would forever be remembered as an iconic movie of the era, right alongside The Breakfast Club, Dirty Dancing and Stand by Me.

 With the movie’s success and musical elements, it made sense that in 1998, a stage adaptation of the film opened on Broadway. Its home was the Richard Rogers Theater on 46th street. Years later, that theater would house the hit show Hamilton. Walter Bobbie directed and AC Ciulla choreographed. Pitchford returned to Footloose to co-write the book and develop lyrics for new songs. Naturally, technical aspects needed to be changed for the stage show. According to junior Conner Welker, who will operate the sound board in Patterson Mill’s production of the show, “Live mics and sound effects are a big difference between theatre and film. Rather than being able to be added safely in the post-production, mics need to be muted and unmuted with apt anticipation, and sound effects need to be played at precisely the right time… doing things right the first time has such a greater emphasis in theatre than in film.”

Jeremy Kushnier, whose other credits include Jersey Boys, Next To Normal, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Rent, starred as Ren. Current cast member of musical Dear Evan Hansen, Jennifer Laura Thompson, made her Broadway debut as Ariel. Dee Hoty, Tom Plotkin, Stacy Francis, and Stephen Lee Anderson rounded out the supporting cast. Once again, critic reactions were mixed. However, they seemed to agree that the talented cast and catchy songs made the show entertaining. The show was nominated for several awards and ran for 790 performances.

Now, the musical is available through licensing for schools and theatre groups. This allows schools like Patterson Mill to perform the show in return for a fee. Ensemble member Nawal Adil, freshman, says, “I’m so glad Patterson Mill is able to perform this show. The movie’s so iconic, so we are all trying to channel its crazy energy.” The company has been putting in lots of effort. Freshman Kayla Iwanowski, who plays Belle, believes this will result in all types of audiences appreciating Patterson Mill’s production. Kayla thinks that “even the people who didn’t like the movie will enjoy seeing the show and seeing all the hard work.”

At 7:00 pm on March 2 and 3, along with a 2:00 pm matinee on March 4, see the emotion, time, and work the cast and crew have been putting into the show.

Footloose has come a long way from its original conception. From the screen, to Broadway, and now to schools including our own Patterson Mill, this story remains truly timeless.