Footloose | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

FOOTLOOSE, Shubert Theatre. The musicals Grease and Bye Bye Birdie spoofed the teen scenes of the 50s and 60s with ironic caricatures and crises. But Footloose--whose subject is the youth culture of the Reagan era--insults the audience's intelligence by treating its bonehead cliches seriously. Based on the 1984 movie, Footloose tells of a Chicago teenager, Ren McCormack (Joe Machota), who moves to a small town where dancing is outlawed and parents--including the all-powerful Reverend Moore (Daren Kelly)--preach a repressive morality. Ren campaigns to decriminalize dancing while wooing Moore's naughty, nubile daughter Ariel (Teresa Marie Sanchez), in defiance of her father and her biker boyfriend.

Dean Pitchford and director Walter Bobbie's script is a contrived cross between Rebel Without a Cause and an Archie comic; the score, credited to Pitchford, Tom Snow, Eric Carmen, Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, and Jim Steinman, augments the film's slick but shallow hits ("Holding Out for a Hero," "Almost Paradise," and "Let's Hear It for the Boy" as well as the title track) with trite new tunes as cheesy as anything served up at the Burger Blast, the fast-food joint where Ariel hangs out. The only thing Footloose has going for it is A.C. Ciulla's choreography, which combines MTV-style dancing with impressive gymnastic displays. But for all its athletic energy, this touring version of the Broadway hit remains strangely lifeless, any hint of youthful spontaneity drained by an automaton precision and a pervasive air of crass, calculated commercialism.

--Albert Williams

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