'Footloose' lights up Dixie stage

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

By Karen Hall


It just keeps getting better!

"Footloose," which opens at the Dixie Friday for a six-performance run, is one of the best shows ever presented on that historic stage.

Full of singing, dancing, drama and comedy, "Footloose" showcases the multiple talents of a host of Marshall County actors of all ages.

The action never stops, and the singing and dancing fits perfectly into the story.

The curtain remains open all the time, and scene changes are deftly handled by cast members.

The only time Director Chase Miller had to stop the dress rehearsal Monday night was in the second act, when cast members had to make a lightning fast change from street clothes to prom dresses and suits for the final scene at the dance. Before the dress rehearsal started, Miller told his actors to do the best they could with the quick change, but the first try didn't work out so well.

On the second try, everyone got back on stage on cue, with shoes on and all zippers securely fastened.

Dave Sanders, who has been the director of many, many productions at the Dixie, is listed on the program only for set construction.

Sanders invited Miller to be the director and choreographer after meeting him last year when putting on "Cats." Sanders got Miller to help with some choreography for "Cats," and Miller stayed on to play Coricopat/Rumpus Cat.

"Footloose" is Miller's first job as a director since leaving the School of Theatre Arts at Illinois Wesleyan University. He's been in Nashville about two years, and calls himself "a working actor."

"'Footloose' has a special place in my heart," he said.

"I've seen it five times, but I've never done it."

In a director's note in the program, Miller shares his feelings about "Footloose."

" ... the real heart of 'Footloose' is anything but dated. Its true message is something we can all recognize, regardless of which decade we come from: freedom," he wrote.

"Freedom is something ... we're born to pursue. Tonight we invite you to embrace that freedom and lay down your burden ... let it all go."

The high energy final number, "Footloose," ends with the cast spilling off the stage and dancing in the Dixie aisles.

"Good job!" exclaimed Sanders when it was over -- he hadn't seen the whole show until Monday night.

The young leads Ren and Ariel are played by Matthew Karban and Laura Beth Brown, very ably supported by Noah Swanson and Callie Johnson, among others. Andy and Barbie Pitts bring Rev. Moore and his wife to life, and Febrienne Box does a great job as Ren's mother. Mike Keny, who made his Dixie debut as Chief Sitting Bull in "Annie Get Your Gun," plays the high school principal.

If you think you know "Footloose" from the 1984 and 2011 movies, think again -- the musical may have the same characters and basic plot, but it's so much more.

Opening night at the Dixie is Friday at 7:30 p.m., and the performance will be repeated on Saturday at the same time, and on Sunday at 2 p.m.

The schedule is the same for the following weekend, March 20-22.

So go by the box office or go online to get your tickets, and don't miss this great show.