Old Fort returns to 1984 with ‘Footloose’ presentation

Letting go and moving on can be a painful process for human beings of any age. People find various ways to react and adjust to changes in their lives, especially when a loss is involved. Turning setbacks into new opportunities is what “Footloose” is all about.

Old Fort High School students are to present the musical at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the school. The production is based on the 1984 movie of the same name.

The show starts on an energetic note with a production number to the title song. The audience is introduced to the main character, Ren McCormack, and his mom, Ethel, portrayed by Austin Castro and Lynette Kelbley, respectively. Mr. McCormack has abandoned them, and they left Chicago to move in with Wes and Lulu Warnicker in Bomont, Texas. Jonathan Miller and Morgan Kemenah play the Warnickers.

The newcomers have hopes of blending into their new community, but they are regarded with suspicion. At church, Ren and Ethyl meet the Rev. Shaw Moore, his wife, Vi, and daughter, Ariel. Cast in those roles are Maison Steyer, Miranda McIntyre and Hannah Gippert, respectively.

The pastor has strict moral standards he tries to impose on the entire town, especially the youth, and Ariel pushes the envelope whenever she can.

At school, most of the students keep their distance from Ren, except for Willard, played by Dalton Anstead. Willard tells Ren there is not much for young people to do.

What Ren likes to do best is dance, so he shows Willard some moves with “I Can’t Stand Still.” That gets attention from other students, as well, but no one joins in. Hali Kimmet, as Principal Clark, soon appears and orders Ren to see her after school.

Three girls approach Ren to explain why there are so many restrictions. Rev. Moore lost his son in “the bridge accident” a few years ago. Three other boys also died. After that, laws were passed in an effort to keep youth in line and safe from harm.

Rusty, Wendy Jo and Urleen (Makayla Wilkinson, Hannah Whitman and Bethany Winger) sing “Somebody’s Eyes” to describe how everyone is kept under surveillance.

In a month’s time, Ren struggles with the pressure to conform and fit in. He gets in trouble at school and loses a job. His aunt and uncle criticize his behavior and blame Ethel for not imposing discipline. At the same time, the Moores worry about Ariel and her attraction to Chuck Cranston (Brad Bannister).

When Chuck yells at Ariel for being late meeting him, Ren comes to her defense. The result is a beating from Chuck but new respect from Ariel. Although Ariel loves her father, she wants him to trust her, while Ren wishes his dad cared enough to stick around.

The adults are in crisis, as well. They want the best for their teens, but they can’t seem to find the right way to guide them. The Moores are still grieving for their deceased son. Ethel is struggling to raise Ren alone in a new town. The harder they try to control the situation, the more their offspring push them away. The reverend prays for guidance in “Heaven Help Me.”

Ren decides dancing might help everyone to blow off steam and relax. Somehow, he plans to get permission to have a school dance and show it won’t make the world crumble after all.

For him, living in fear and sorrow is not really living.

Completing the cast are Bryce DeAnda, Tiffany Trumbo, Chelsey Kohlenberg, Jozie Hickman, Adrianna Stock, Haleigh Streacker, Emily Anstead, Hannah Bilger, Amber Eubank, Lydia Frankart, Hope Gippert, Tess Hasselbach, Sydney Hossler, Heather Kirchner, Gretta Kissell, Kathleen Root, Zella Stull, Alize Tucker, Morgan Wilkinson, Megan Zimmerman, Sara Bell, Liz Cutlip, Addison Reineck and Wilbur Jameson.

Songs from the show include “On Any Sunday,” “The Girl Gets Around,” “Learning to Be Silent,” “Holding Out for a Hero,” “I’m Free,” “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” “Mama Says” and “Almost Paradise.”

Amy DeRodes is directing.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and senior citizens. For tickets, call (419) 992-4291.