St. Wendelin students cut loose

FOSTORIA – Return to the 1980s as St. Wendelin High School presents “Footloose.” Based on the 1984 movie, the musical has been adapted for the stage by Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford. Performances are at 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The curtain rises on a Chicago dance club where Ren McCormack and fellow dancers are moving to the spirited title song. The lively mood quickly changes as Ethel McCormack arrives. Because her husband has abandoned her and Ren, she needs her son to help pack for their move to the small farming town where Ren’s aunt and uncle have offered them a place to live. In the roles of Ren and Ethel are Dalton Murray and Victoria Volpe.

Ren bids goodbye to his big-city friends and prepares for the challenges of being the new kid at Bomont High School. The dance hall is transformed into a church in Bomont where the Rev. Shaw Moore is delivering a sermon. Among the congregation are his wife, Violet, and his daughter, Ariel. Portraying the family are Kieran Campbell, Amber Gabel and Katrina Lang, respectively.

Church-goers go into tableau as Ren’s attention drifts back to his former life and his questions about losing his father. After the service, Ren and Ethel meet the pastor and other members of the church, including Ariel and her friend Rusty, played by Erica Gabel. A note of foreshadowing arises as Ren learns a favorite book, “Slaughterhouse Five,” has been banned from the school reading list.

On the first day of school, Ren gets a cool reception until he meets Jordan Nye in the role of Willard. The awkward but friendly Willard watches in awe as his new friend reveals “I Can’t Stand Still.” Other students also witness Ren dancing but keep their distance. Edy Mowrey as Principal Clark marches in to inform Ren dancing is forbidden.

Once she departs, the students explain the ban includes all of Bomont. It has been in place about five years, ever since a car accident in which Shaw Moore’s son was killed on the way home from a high school dance. The pastor exerted his influence, supposedly to protect other youth from the same fate, but the action also partly soothes his own anger and grief. His classmates warn Ren that “Somebody’s Eyes” are always watching them for any kind of violation.

At home, the reverend turns a deaf ear to the rebellious Ariel. He does not approve of Ren, which makes the new student even more attractive to Ariel. More trouble develops when her boyfriend, Chuck (Cole Williams) tries to sabotage Ren’s reputation. Ariel takes every opportunity to break her father’s rules and sings “I Need a Hero” to rescue her.

To help his mother with expenses, Ren finds a job at a local restaurant, owned by Betty (Becca Starn).

Ren longs for his dance club, where he could vent his frustrations through music and movement. At a neighboring town, Ren locates a dance hall and teaches Willard some moves as a frustrated Rusty tries desperately to hook up with Willard.

Ren decides to approach city council with a proposal to overturn the law. Ariel gives him Bible passages about dancing in hopes of convincing her father to lift the ban. Initially, the adults reject the plan. Then Ren gathers his courage and speaks to Shaw in person, explaining his own grief about losing his father. He suggests music and dancing could help them both to heal and move on. Public opinion eventually turns in the teens’ favor.

Anthony Gallina is the artistic and acting director with assistance from Keight Karhoff. St. Wendelin music teacher Matthew Keasal directs the pit orchestra.

All seats are $7. The play is to be staged in the old gymnasium at the school, 433 N. Countyline St., Fostoria. For details, call (419) 435-8144.