Ensemble cuts loose with 'Footloose'
Students from across the county have been dancing themselves silly since October, even though the town they are portraying does not allow dancing.
The Union County Performance Ensemble is performing “Footloose” this year, a musical adaptation of the 1984 film.
“Footloose” was the suggestion of the six teachers involved.
“(We were) looking for something that was lighter in tone,” Director Larry Robinson said.
Last year, the ensemble performed “The Phantom of the Opera.” Robinson said they try to alternate between lighter and heavier shows.
While the show is not as technically challenging, it offers its own challenges.
“The dancing is a big challenge,” Robinson said.
Bianca Morgan, a dance teacher at Central Academy of Technology and Arts, is the choreographer.
Jennifer LaBianca, 17, said she has a “love/hate relationship” with the dancing. It is the hardest thing about the show and the thing she enjoys the best.
LaBianca is one of the two students playing Ariel Moore, the female lead. A few of the roles have been double-cast. The Porter Ridge High School senior has been involved with the performance ensemble for four years. She was very humbled to be cast as the lead.
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity,” LaBianca said. “It has been a great four years.”
About 130 students auditioned for the production in September. They have been rehearsing since around October.
“They love it,” Robinson said. “They have really enjoyed it.”
The students have particularly enjoyed the costumes. They are providing their own clothes. The girls in particular enjoyed the prom dresses from the 1980’s.
Lindsey Sherrin, 18, is also playing female lead Ariel Moore. The CATA senior has been involved with the performance ensemble for four years. She and LaBianca are often cast in dual roles. They were both Penny in “Hairspray” two years ago.
“This show has a lot of excitement,” Sherrin said. “It’s a fun show.”
One of the biggest challenges for her has been learning to belt with her voice. She said had to learn to sing out and sing loudly.
She plans to study musical theater in college and was thankful to all the directors for helping her.
Many of the students enjoy getting to know students from across the county. Most of the high schools are featured in the musical.
Robinson also enjoys getting to know students from other schools. He enjoys working with them and joked that he would like to keep a few of them.
Josh Hawkins, 18, was surprised and humbled to be cast as the male lead Ren McCormack. This will be his first time in a lead role.
“(My favorite part is) the music, oh my goodness, I love singing Ren’s songs,” Hawkins, a senior at Parkwood, said.
The hardest part for him is the dancing. He has never had a lot of dancing, but said he is getting used to it.
He has enjoyed meeting new people and hopes to continue acting and singing in college, he said.
Josh Boyer, 17, thought they were kidding when they told him he was also cast as Ren.
He has enjoyed “getting to embrace a side I’ve never gotten to express,” Boyer said. He said Ren is bitter and angry, but then learns it is okay.
“Singing and dancing at the same time” has been his biggest challenge, he said.
This is his first time performing with the performance ensemble. He came knowing about three people and now knows everyone, he said.
Robinson thinks the audience, especially those who grew up in the 1980’s, will feel nostalgic when watching the show. Many people will also enjoy the music.
“The audience is in for a lot of fun,” he said.
The performances will be Feb. 14-16 and Feb. 21-23 at 7:30 p.m. There are matinée performances Feb. 17 and Feb. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students.