By Coulsen Bingham
Salem Hills High School has a legacy of great shows since the school was built several years ago. They are constantly wowing audiences with their productions and their most recent show, Footloose, was no exception.
Footloose, the energetic, emotional, comedy-filled musical originated as a movie that was filmed in 1984 here in Utah. It focuses on the life of Ren McCormick, a senior in high school moving to a new town and getting a new life and the trouble that ensues. While realizing more about himself and the small town of Bomont, he causes trouble with the community by bringing his “Rebellious city boy attitude” to their small town where dancing is illegal.
Ren is played by the remarkable and charismatic Joey Shearer, who truly brought a believable life and emotion to the character. Outside of school, he has not been in any musicals but he trained with Center Stage Dance in Orem for two years and the training definitely showed onstage. His movements were very real to the character and especially impressive in large group numbers. He was able to lead the show with grace and you could see that he actually put the time and thought into the development of his character. His opposite is played by Junior, Erica Gebert and wow, is she stunning! When I say that, I not only mean it with looks but voice as well. With her training from world renowned vocal coach Dean Kaelin and Jeff Archuleta (Yes, David Archuleta’s father and his incredible vocal coach) she has a voice that will blow anyone who hears it out of the water! There are so many great moments for you when you expect the song get too high or the notes to not get there and then she does it. It is exhilarating to witness.
The show starts with the ensemble dancing to the show theme song and partying. From the first moment, the show was very impressive vocally. Justin Bills, the music director, always does an incredible job with his shows. The ensemble harmonies were incredibly tight and the entire ensemble was strong but did not have much volume or projection. From the 8th row, I could barely hear the company. However, what I could hear was lovely. Rusty, Arleen, and Wendy Jo had incredible harmonies that gave me chills multiple times. They had beautiful moments in the spotlight and did a great job using those to their advantage.
The choreography by Erin Boothe along with the Salem Hills dance company was creative and fresh but kept the familiar style of the movie. It was simple but that allowed all the cast members to get it down and make it look good. In numbers where the dancing was a little bit more advanced it was not quite as clean but was still entertaining and you could tell the cast had worked hard at it. One of the greatest things about musical theatre is the small, intimate numbers with only a couple actors and the movement in those scenes played wonderfully. The actors moved with each other and embraced the uniqueness inside them to enhance their energy and performance.
As with any high school performance, the audio side of things was a little on the rocky side. However, that being said, this show was actually better than a lot of the shows Salem has done in the past at keeping mics running, screeching to a minimum and not missing cues. The tech crew has really been working hard on that and it showed. The immobile set was very simple but it did its purpose at filling the stage and providing the backdrop for the show. It kept the integrity of the show all the way through with the clever designs and graffiti markings. I was extremely impressed upon seeing Reverend Moore’s home and the intricacy put into painting and designing it all the way down to the shading on the cupboards and tile floor. It looked incredible from an audience point of view and did its job as well as all the other flats and moving set. Great job set designer and construction, Scott Winn and set dressing, Dayna Hughes.
However, the stage crew on the stage in the middle of scenes doing changes was a little distracting and unfortunately pulled me out of the moment. Perhaps, if they were dressed as cast members or something to that effect it would be less distracting.
The show’s director Jana Lee Stubbs, who currently moved up from Salem Junior High School, said, “When I was picking the musical, I had it down to two options: The Sound Of Music or Footloose. Well, I could’ve gone classic, but in all honesty, Footloose is so much more fun! From start to finish this show has been incredible. When the kids came in to auditions they performed their guts out and became who you saw tonight onstage! Obviously, this has grown from a vision in my head to be something completely different but it has found its place. The kids have worked so hard and I couldn’t be more proud. It has been great to go with them on this journey. Sometimes, the process is just as important as the product.”
And she couldn’t be more correct.
Footloose has one more showing. It is playing Monday November 24 at 7:00 at Salem Hills High School. Tickets are $8 for Adults and general admission, $6 for students and seniors, and $30 for a family pass.
Salem Hills High School is located at 150 Skyhawk Blvd, Salem, UT 84653. (801) 423-3200