The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools.
Twenty minutes prior to the show, the foyer leading into the CAPA Theater bustled with anticipation: a seemingly endless line of people was waiting to see more than 70 CAPA students tell their version of the 1998 musical, “Footloose.”
The conservative and rural town of Bomont has been holding on to the grief left behind by four students who died in a car crash following a dance. Following the incident a law was enacted to forbid dancing. The dynamic protagonist, Ren McCormack, newly arrived in town, craves to change the law because he knows from personal experience that it is necessary to move on from things you don’t have control over. Ariel Moore, the Reverend’s daughter, wishes her father understood that his grief holds him down, making situations worse. As a result, their relationship disconnected and Ariel has lost sight of the strict ways her father enforced upon her.
While this show was emotionally complicated, the actors were still able to express their feelings in an organic way without them being overemphasized. Saige Smith distinctly stood out, apart from having the female lead. She grasped all the different sides of Ariel by showing rebelliousness to vulnerability. During her solo, “Holding Out for a Hero,” she commanded the stage with her zealous vocals.
Not only were the emotional complexities handled well, but also the technical challenges. Due to the many locations and scene changes, there was no main backdrop, which was a disappointment, however many larger props were in place to make up for it. This included props suspended from above, including basketball hoops used during a gym scene. Another interesting effect was the use of lighting during night scenes, giving the illusion of stars.
This stars were especially well used during Rusty’s feature song, “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” Alexandra Illescas’s vocals blew me away mainly because of how relaxed and natural she looked during the number, but on top of that she had great projection, uniquely able to sustain her power on higher notes. As she is the passionate sweetheart of Willard their quirky relationship was comical and fun loving. “Let’s hear it” for Drew Praskovich who genuinely exemplified the slow-witted, insane, and lighthearted qualities of Willard. His devotion to his portrayal was apparent, especially during his feature song “Mama Says.”
Lastly, I was impressed by how well the ensemble performed. With such a large group, it would have been easy for many simple mistakes to occur with the choreography and lyrics as well as sheer enthusiasm, but each cast member seemed to actively play their role. With many harmonies and involved dance numbers, the show would have lacked spirit if the ensemble had been smaller.
By the final number, “time's no longer holding (them) down” and happiness has been restored to Bomont, so there’s only one thing left to do: “cut footloose”!
Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson. more high school musicals coverage, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/theater-dance/ and scroll down.